A restoration story: Part 1

March 12, 2007 at 10:38 pm 4 comments

Almost a year ago I was asked by my pastor to write down what I had learned about God during the months since I left my ministry and the life we had known as a family for nearly 30 years.  Over the next several days I will be excerpting portions of that “revelation” on this site.  I trust it will be, not only the story of God’s amazing grace in my life, but also an encouragement to those of you who struggle to trust in the unconditional love of the Father.    Part One-A liberating revelation.   But God is so rich in mercy and he loved us so very much… Ephesians 2:4  Henri Nouwen writes: Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self–rejection.  Success, popularity, or power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection.  When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. (Henri Nouwen—Life of the Beloved)    For more than 30 years I have been telling the story of the wonderful, unconditional love the Father has for His children to thousands of people.  I was convinced in my head of this amazing truth but seldom if ever felt it in my heart.  Since I rarely experienced first hand God’s love for me, I worked tirelessly to prove to Him that I was indeed worthy of His love, until my desire to be perfect became bigger than my desire for God.   I surmised that when I performed flawlessly, when I built a bigger and more effective church ministry, when more and more people followed me and “served” with me God would finally be pleased with me.    

Along this journey I have read and identified much with the gifted author, Brennan Manning and I will quote him regularly.  He is speaking of me when he says: Tyrannized by an all-or-nothing mentality, I interpreted weakness as mediocrity and inconsistency as a loss of nerve.  I dismissed compassion and self-acceptance as inappropriate responses.  My jaded perception of personal failure and inadequacy led to a loss of self-esteem, triggering episodes of mild depression and heavy anxiety.    

After 30+ years of professional ministry I could no longer keep up the façade of success and perfection.  Given enough time and practice perfectionism will lead to self-destruction and that is eventually what happened to me.  As I pushed harder to perform with perfection I was constantly under pressure to be better next week than I was last week and the drive to be affirmed and valued became more important and less believed. 

I constantly needed the approval of those I saw as significant (and believed they intentionally withheld it) and regularly rejected the approval of those closest to me (I believed they had to give it).     

Finally, the impossible struggle to keep up the charade of perfectionism, led to my downfall and the destruction of everything I had worked so hard to build.   

For the past 18 months I have been the recipient of the grace and mercy of God as demonstrated in His forgiveness and healing in my life and the life of my family.     The Rabbi does not want us to be perfect, just real.  Yet at times we try so hard to please God and impress others—determined to be perfect Christians—that we’re sucked dry of energy and sickened by our own slick surface and inner hypocrisy.  It leaves us feeling dangerously brittle, as lifeless and fruitless as a tree in a midwinter swoon. (Abba’s Child—Brennan Manning)  How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are. 1John 3:1 It is a sad commentary on those of us who have been followers of Jesus for many years that we have a propensity to follow the lead of Adam and Eve and hide from what we are and what we have become.  For me, hiding from who I really was came out of a deep seeded conviction that if God really knew me He would not love me or accept me, so I was fearful that if anyone else knew the real me they would not love or accept me either.     These feelings, as real as they were to me, were the leading lie of the enemy who comes to steal from us the truth that God loves us without reservation and without any expectation or requirement. In my brokenness and shame God began to break down the walls of my fear and insecurity and speak unconditional love into my heart.     …You should behave like God’s very own children, adopted into his family—calling him, Father, dear Father.  For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children. Romans 8:15-16     The greatest revelation of God I have ever experienced, and continue to experience each day that I allow that vision to come alive in me, is the truth that I am Abba’s child.  To believe and live in the reality that the Father not only loves me, He also likes me, is the most liberating revelation of God ever given to the human race and to me personally.    Perhaps as you read this you are seeing something of yourself.  Many of you, like me, have never accepted the Father’s love as unconditional and that He gives it without reservation.  My prayer as I post this story is that you too might learn as I have that I am His and He is mine and nothing can ever change that reality.   Tomorrow: Part two-accepting my brokenness and failure

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Entry filed under: Church, Culture, Faith, Thoughts.

Competent but ineffective? A restoration story: Part 2

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Brandon  |  March 13, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    Thank you for sharing. There is nothing so importent or less understood then the lack of our ability and the depth of his love. But just saying it leaves so much lacking. This Idea has been recycled and scraped over by so meny “cocktail loung leaders” that it is a catch phrase or a mission statement. So the only power in this is when you are broken and have been striped of everything. After the “flood” in my life this has been the one central thought in me, How do I live as if the only person or opinion that I long for is God (That doesn’t mean I live it well). It changes everything I have been able to see life as if the curtain has been lifted. there are two books that I love that have helped me “Till We Have Faces” by C.S. Lewis and “Humility” by Andrew Murray.

  • 2. Jenn  |  March 13, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    I think many people believe that we must work for the Father’s love and acceptance. I know I did. I still fight it every day. You see, if we want acceptance, approval, and praise by the world it means we must excel in everything we do. And then you may get a sideways glance of approval or a small, “good job”. Let’s face it, that small “good job” is never enough and we wonder what we did wrong to keep them from really praising us or acknowledging our hard work. And the cycle continues. We tend to transfer this attitude over to God forgetting that “…His perfect love drives out all fear”1 John 4:18. I think that my new favorite verse is, “Whom have I in heaven but you, and besides you, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73: 25-26 I know that I will fail at believing Him sometimes, but He says He will be the strength of my heart, and just as soon as His spirit reminds me, I will turn around and choose Him. Will we believe God or will we believe the lies that the enemy of our soul would have us believe?!

  • 3. damon  |  March 13, 2007 at 7:24 am

    I am thinking if you keep putting up interesting topics to discuss, I am going to have to seek counseling so that I do not become addicted to this:)

    As I mentioned to you in an e mail yesterday; I went out the prison last night and shared a discussion on “humility”; I just see so much need for this in our society and am surprised with the “success” trap many pastors fall into. I pray for pastors like Joel Osteen who are serving so many, and other pastors who may think that serving so many is the true singular definition of success.

    I do not think that God measures success the way we do; in part I do not think God measures success by how many we serve, rather how well we serve; even if it is just one; just one person at the time God puts them into our life; or if it is just one person who shows up for our bible study; or Sunday service.

    During our discussion last night I questioned these men who came; (in whatever state of dispair they may be dealing with; however much time they may have to serve)

    “is there anyone in this room who does not believe that they are just as special to God as anyone else on this earth?”

    I think we all have to remember this. We are all very special to our Father:)

    “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,……..” Matthew 18:1-6

  • 4. Doug Wright  |  March 13, 2007 at 6:36 am

    As certain as Jesus was the sacrifice for all who believe, is the living proof of Gods love. Peace for all who lean on that heavenly promise. Having a better picture of how to live in this truth of love will be the journey for most Christians. I’m excited to hear what you have to say.

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