What Title has been Bestowed on You?

When it came to sailing, my dad was a crafty old fox. He was not the most daring, so he never tried to time it so he was one of the first across the starting line. Starting with a 5 to 10 minute deficit meant he had to scheme and plot how to catch up. He was so good at reading the winds and tides, that he could make up the time. Most of the boats behind him knew this and would follow him. Once they so slavishly followed him that he led half the fleet around the wrong buoy, including many other categories of boats that were competing in different leagues and not against him. They bestowed on him the title of Master of Winds and Waves, which he was very proud of.

My mother trained as a medical lab technologist, but once us kids started coming, she was a stay at home mom. My dad admitted that she was brighter than him, so she chafed at the bit. Once my youngest brother was in middle school, she went back to get her masters. On the power of the masters, she started teaching Medical Microbiology and Hematology at the University. She was so good that the university got as many of their graduates hired as a nearby university that graduated twice as many with a lab technology degree. She was dubbed a queen of the Lab Technologists world, and after she retired, she worked writing distance learning refresher courses for them until she was almost 90. She took great joy in the honors they bestowed on her.

I worked in a specialty field of Chemistry. I got a job at a metals testing laboratory. Whenever a metals manufacturer made an item, they had to make it with the type of metal specified. If it was supposed to be 316 stainless steel, each element had to be there within a certain range. One alloy might specify chrome 20-25%, while another was 15-20%. If it was in the wrong range, it was the wrong alloy and had to be rejected. I was happily churning out positive reports until we got a round robin test sample from a french lab. We did poorly. Every time that I finished my work for the day, I started playing with different methods to see if I could improve the results. Finally, I hit on a method that changed the error from +/- 5% to +/-.05%. This showed me that one companies standards were so poor that they were a significant source of our bad results. The improvement was so good that I could see where our very best standards were slightly off from each other. Now, other labs gained confidence in our results. My coworkers conferred on me the title “wizard of the Chem Lab.”

All of these titles were bestowed because we earned them. We could justifiably be proud of them, but with them is a tendency to feel superior. There is one title that has been conferred on me, that I didn’t earn and didn’t even deserve, and that is “Saint.” Saint is a Greek word meaning set apart, in this context, for holiness. The closest I can come is if you buy a package of sponges. You set the blue one aside to wash dishes and the yellow one is dedicated to cleaning the toilet, never confusing the two. The kitchen one has been set aside for a “holy use.” Since Jesus paid the price, and offered sainthood to me as a free gift, I cannot claim any superiority like I could for being the “wizard of the Chem lab.” For me to do so would be like me looking down on someone and saying I am more humble than you. It doesn’t make sense. I got a kick out of a Buddhist story. A man is walking down a path and sees a holy man walking toward him. He knows he should bow because the holy man deserves respect, but he must not bow, because that would cause the holy man to feel superior, which takes the holy one away from his striving to renounce such worldly goals. What should he do then? He should hit the holy man over the head with his walking stick because he put the ordinary man in an unsolvable quandry.  Since I am a licensed minister, be gentle with that walking stick when you help me remember that I am in no way superior to any one else, though God has bestowed on me such a great title as “Saint.”

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