Confessions from a Pastor: The Real Me

You know those little 4×6 cards the city sends you to remind you to pay your water bill? It’s a pretty good idea not to set it aside “intending” to take care of it and then forget about it. Then one day you come home with three tired and hungry children and, when you go to begin lunch prep, realize that you have no running water coming into your home. Then you can’t use the bathroom or wash your hands either. And the kids are still tired and hungry and becoming more cranky by the millisecond.

Yup – that was me. My wife handed me the card some time ago and I said I would take care of it. Epic fail. Called the city and paid the bill and the water was back on a couple hours later. In an attempt at solidarity with the world around me (or maybe merely an attempt to feel better about myself?) I asked on social media what other absent-minded things people had done or had not done. I got some interesting feedback.

One mom said: “I put the milk away in the cabinet under the sink”

A teacher remembered: “I took my students to Disneyland for a band trip and got to the gate to pick up our tickets and realized I had left the check sitting on my desk.”

Someone else told me: “I requested drive up/pick up for my groceries and then drove home without them.

Finally one person wrote: “I forgot to put the car in park…rushed into the house…the car rushed into the garage door!”

So it seems I’m not the only one that does bone-headed, absent-minded things from time to time. I’m glad I’m in good company. Here’s the reason I’m telling you this: after the event happened I was embarrassed. I’ve never had my water shut off before for failure to pay the bill. The money was in the bank – I simply forgot. Still, I felt this big (imagine me holding my fingers close together, because I didn’t feel very big at all).

Because I was embarrassed (and spent a good amount of time apologizing to my wife for dropping the ball) I considered whether or not I was going to tell people about my goof or if I was going to conceal it instead. Since I’m writing this post I think it’s clear which route I decided to take.

But it really got me thinking: How much do/should we share with others and how much do/should we keep locked away from all but a few? Because I was embarrassed I naturally wanted to conceal my flub. But I live in a rural Midwest community. It’s not too far a stretch of imagination to think of someone at the desk at city hall recognizing my name and mentioning to someone else: “Hey, did you hear that the pastor at Central Community Church didn’t pay his bill and got his water shut off?” The way this town talks I really can see that happening (if you live here with me, let’s agree to help change the atmosphere of gossip and slander, ok?!?). I figured it’s always better to get out in front of stuff like this. It wasn’t illegal or immoral, just stupid, so I can swallow my pride and tell on myself.

But then it REALLY got me thinking about what the Bible says in regards to situations like this. The Bible tells us to carry each other’s burdens. The Apostle Paul also says that we are to treat each other with humility, and patience, accepting one another in love.

The people who are part of my spiritual family are supposed to help me carry the things that weigh me down. I’m also supposed to be able to count on this family to treat me with humility, patience, and acceptance. That means I can be free to be me and you can be free to be you.

In our contemporary, social media crazy world, we have a false sense of “knowing” and of “being known.” I might have 900 friends on Facebook but how many REALLY know me? They only see the pieces of me that I allow them to see.

Going through seminary I heard professors and students wrestle with the idea of how self-revealing a pastor SHOULD be versus how much he (or she, I’m pro-female ordination – but that’s a post for another day) should play it close to the vest. I guess it comes down to personal choice and conscience. Some pastors only post things that are very professional. Some post any ol’ thing that pops into their heads. I’ve struggled with the idea of how I come across through what I say, do, tweet, post, whatever.

I always come back to those passages. Christian community is supposed to be a place where we share life together. Where we laugh together. Where we cry together. Where we are real together. It’s supposed to be different from the world around us. All around us people look out for #1. We do things to get a leg up on the competition. We fight to beat everyone else down. That’s not the church that Jesus instituted.

His church is a place for care. His church is a place where we put others first. His church is a place where we can hear about the bone-headed things others do and, instead of criticizing and condemning, we say, “Yup, I’ve done stuff like that, too! God loves us anyway.” So I’ve decided that I’m going to share my life with people, warts and all. I’m not going to hide the imperfections. I’m not perfect. I struggle with my humanity just like everyone else (I even got a ticket last year). And Jesus loves me anyway. I do realize that there are people out there who will criticize, judge, and condemn those of us who reveal our flaws. Some people try to use our weaknesses as ammunition against us. But God doesn’t care. The Apostle Paul learned that being weak meant leaning on the strength of Jesus. He’ll provide support when we can’t carry on under our own power.

**Please note that God still expects us to be moving forward, to be growing in our spiritual maturity and attempting to be more like Christ every day (it’s called sanctification).**

But still, I think you know what I mean…

How about you? What bone-headed, absent-minded things have you done? No matter what – Jesus still loves you. And I’m gonna do my best to embrace you, help you carry your load, and treat you with humility, patience, and acceptance – just as I hope you will with me.

It’s Not My Fault

My family seems to like quirky movies. Recently we’ve discovered Disney’s Meet the Robinsons. It’s quirky and goofy. But this isn’t a movie review, so I’ll get to my point. There’s one scene where the hero confronts the villain. The villain holds the hero responsible for how miserable his life has become. The hero says that life could have turned out differently depending on the choices and decisions the villain made along the way. And then comes one of the best lines of the move. The villain declares:

 Let’s see – take responsibility for my own life or blame you? Ding, ding ding! Blame you win hands down every time!

It’s the kind of line that makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. It sums up perfectly the attitude that many of us have. No matter what happens in life we will play the victim. We regularly have outbursts:

“My life is not the result of what I have done. My circumstances are not the consequences of my behavior. Oh, no! Don’t you know that this junk is happening because you are a terrible person. If you weren’t so mean I wouldn’t be facing what I’m facing. If you weren’t so terrible my life situation would be a lot easier.”

In fact, it seems that a good deal of social media posts revolve around this victim mentality and blaming others for life. We’ve become a nation of experts at avoiding responsibility; of accepting life as the consequences of our behavior.

But this is an immature view of life. It’s kid stuff. Just ask my six year old. If she behaves in a way she KNOWS she is not supposed to she will quickly tell you that she only did it because of her brother, or sister, or me (Daddy). Were it not for these outside forces acting upon her OF COURSE she never would have done something like that!

 

Kid stuff.

 

But it’s not the way that mature adults are supposed to behave. Well, not Christians at any rate. God calls us to be people of…dare I say it…responsibility. We are supposed to own up to our behavior and accept the consequences.

The New Testament letter of James tells us:

15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

It’s there in verse 16: confess your sins to one another and pray for one another. Own up to your behavior. No victim mentality – it’s about grown ups saying, “I did this and I was wrong.” We don’t see a whole lot of that going around. But look at that Bible passage again (go ahead, it’s only the previous paragraph). Notice that James says that our ability to own up and take responsibility has spiritual significance. Forgiveness and healing come when we own up to our behavior. It would seem to indicate that passing the buck would then keep us stuck without forgiveness and without healing. Um…what?

John also talks about that horrible word: confession.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Yep – it’s a whole lot easier to say to the world, “Why are you doing this to me?” It’s easier to play the victim and pretend that we’re innocent. But, in fact, we’re not. The Bible is clear that we’re all broken people. That means that we all (even the best of us) will act out in broken ways. I’m not justifying it. God doesn’t give you the green light to act inappropriately just because it’s “human nature”.

So…bottom line ~ Stop playing the victim when it’s your poor behavior that has cause grief. Don’t blame others but confess and seek forgiveness and healing.

~ Time to accept responsibility for your behavior.