Holding Honor

girl with flower

This week, we’re gathering with friends and family to pause, spend time together, and share in our gratitude. But what happens when you are the recipient of gratitude? Why is it so hard for many of us to receive the honor and appreciation of others? Here, Becky Allender writes about a memory of receiving honor—and about the future hope that such moments stir in her. This post originally appeared on Red Tent Living.

I didn’t want to write about a moment in which I was honored. I wanted to write about how important it is to offer honor to others. My husband heard me talk about what I wanted to say and he asked: “Why don’t you write about how you were honored when I departed from the presidency?” I had totally forgotten about that event, and I blushed when he brought the moment to memory.

Moments of being honored are few in this life. The closest we get is a yearly birthday, or major events of passage like graduating from college, or anniversaries with a zero at the end. It would be far easier to write about times in my life where I felt harmed than when I felt honored.

Why is it so hard to receive glory?

We were off to our five-year anniversary retreat with The Allender Center team. Dan and I stopped by the school to pick up Rachael Clinton and, thankfully, she helped us navigate Seattle’s Friday afternoon traffic, road closures, and HOV lanes. What a joy to have young comrades in this life. Jeanette White had found an amazing home on the beach on Camano Island, and we were all anticipating a weekend together. The surprise for the first night was that The Seattle School’s president, Keith Anderson, was coming to speak to us.

Around six that evening, Keith walked through the door and I greeted him and thanked him for coming. He candidly asked where the bathroom was because four hours of bumper-to-bumper traffic was hard on a sixty-six year old bladder. Oh, I get that and it made me understand his sacrifice more clearly. I was well aware that the multiple hour drive, dinner, honoring us, driving back to Seattle, waiting for the ferry, and taking the ferry home would mean a long night alone for not only him, but for his wife Wendy too. It would likely be more than six hours before he would finally lay his head on his pillow.

Keith and Wendy moved from Iowa so he could become our academic dean in 2006. We were overwhelmed with our good fortune. They had spent their entire careers in Christian higher education, and we were grateful for their move to Seattle. It seemed too good to be true. After Dan had served as president for nine years I had a hard time imagining anyone who would willingly say yes to the job. It had been costly for us as a couple for Dan to be president. Over and over again I saw how the leader has to take ownership of failure even when it might not have been their fault. I learned that every error under Dan’s watch eventually had to be owned as his responsibility. I grew weary of the cost of leadership. I prayed for a successor.

When Keith was offered the presidency, Wendy said she felt that God had prepared him for this position his entire career, and that he was perfect for it. Our joy was overflowing to hand over the institution to such a gifted and qualified man.

Our last dinner with the board was a night to honor my husband. Our board members work without pay and recognition. They are men and women who have degrees and careers that have honed amazing skills sorely needed by what was a young, thinly budgeted graduate school. That night I felt overwhelmed at how they had helped us navigate the birth and chaos of starting the school. I could barely contain both the gratitude I felt for their service and the guilt I felt for all that they had done with so little recognition. The night should have also been a celebration of their service.

Keith and the board told stories about my husband’s boldness and courage, and at times his less than sensible ways of doing things. At what I thought was the end of the night, Keith gave my husband exactly what he had asked for (unbeknownst to me), which was a $19.99 Nordstrom gift certificate. Why? I have no clue, but it’s part of my husband’s odd sense of humor.

Then Keith invited me up to stand with Dan. Almost everything that occurred next is a blur. I am so sad that what was bestowed was mostly lost in the haze of my awkwardness. Keith began by saying: “This school would never have come to exist without the sacrifice and wisdom of this woman.”

My legs were weak and I felt Dan’s arms tighten around me. I should have reveled in the glory but it was too much to take in. It was Dan’s night, not mine, and somehow, this man of immense honor was honoring me. As he ended (I feared he would go on forever) he announced that the school was gifting me with one thousand dollars given in my name to the sex trafficking organization that I served as a volunteer.

As awkward as I felt, I knew in my bones that it is what my soul needed to receive. The journey had been costly and long. Many friends were lost, and irreversible decisions were made. How could a gesture and a few words so deeply touch my heart? One only needs to remember the end of The Lord of Rings at Aragorn’s coronation.

After Gandalf puts the crown on Aragorn’s head, he goes to Arwen, his future wife, and they go to the hobbits. The hobbits bow down from their waists. Aragorn says, “My friends, you bow to no one.” And he gets on his knees before them. The entire kingdom follows their king. The hobbits are stunned, though there is some indication of delight.

There is no way to take away the pain or the exhaustion from our journey. But there is a day, and not too far away, when the King of Kings will place his crown on our head and say: “Welcome, my good and faithful servant.” It is what my heart aches to hear. Perhaps, even more it aches to believe. Will I one day be crowned and the host of the Kingdom bow to my paltry service? I don’t know. Yet when I see the clip, when I remember Keith’s words—I know it is not only my destiny, but yours as well.