I get discouraged by other people's success. That's how truly ugly my heart is. I find it hard to listen to other people preaching who are what I consider to be 'better' than me. I go to team meetings in another church and when they share that some people became Christians recently, I celebrate outwardly but die a little inwardly. I feel a surge of emotion and an instinct to fight when someone dares to challenge a decision I've made. I say things to my kids loud enough that my wife overhears and thinks I'm a better man than I am. I care less about whether the students I teach have learnt something and more about whether I've performed well or am loved by them. I wilt unless others pat me on the back or tell me I've done well. I want to sit around and indulge in my own emotions and thoughts and I expect and desire everyone else to bow down and acknowledge my greatness.
I could go on but these announcements are not incidental or trivial, they're soul destroying. My heart is black and rotten. I'd like to think I'm not alone, and I'm sure in fact that I'm not alone and that others too are like this but the trouble is that I expect better of myself. The presence of this reality is not only terrible because it's true, it's terrible because it's true of the one person I want it not to be true of. The truthfulness of these statements reveals the even worse reality that I will never be like the image and reputation of the great men I admire and want to emulate. It means I have to accept my station. What's worse is that a lot of those things are so instinctive and normal for me, some of them so physiological and chemical that I don't have much expectation of them changing even over time.
I am a rod of iron that the gospel has done its work on, had its softening effect on but still it remains bent out of shape.
Who is the authentic me? Is this me? Are these things things that define me? They sure feel as though they do. What is an integrated self, an identity that possesses integrity and what does it look like for me? The presence of high extroversion and nigh negative emotions like mine I'm told makes it harder for me to keep long term commitments and navigate a single path through life. That worries me since I believe that success is earned through faithfulness and stubborn obedience over the long term.
I'm not in a place or position to try and resolve these thoughts and ideas, instead I want for them to settle and land. I don't have easy answers to pick me up and in many ways I want to keep staring at this mirror, this medusa. Will I turn to stone? Maybe that's what's best. Maybe it's better long term for the church for me to step aside and to stop pretending I can hold it together. I always hoped I'd be a better pastor than this. I felt called, I'm clearly competent at preaching but ugh I am ugly of heart, bent and spiritually cold.
Father come and help me. Help me deliver on what you've called me to deliver on. I'm a desert soul, you are able to make me live again.
Here's a funny thing about how God works. Immediately after writing this I walked into the kitchen where someone of my students were starting to prepare tonight's dinner. One of the lads said something encouraging to me and I replied with 'You're a nice guy,'
'I try to be' he said
Rather tongue in cheek I replied 'Do you try to be or are you naturally a nice guy?'
'I've tried for long enough that it's now become natural.' He said
Let him who has ears to hear, hear.
There's a lot of truth in what he said. Truth that I needed to hear at that specific time.
Later in the same evening I felt the Lord impress on me Paul's exhortation from 2 Cor. 12:9:
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.