I went for a walk yesterday. My heart was heavy and discouraged, filled with the shrapnel of well-intended critics who have evaluated my life and ministry and found fault. My mind was spinning, rehearsing endless conversations about trying to keep the masses happy.
I have given so much of my life toward the seductive pursuit of pleasing people. Countless hours have been spent trying to keep a certain audience happy, and another audience from abandoning me. I have labored over relationships that seem to be inevitably destructive, and I have cared so deeply for the reconstruction of my reputation ~ all of which has taken its toll.
Who am I, really? What things do I really believe in, and for which causes will I live and die for? At the end of the day, what really matters?
Leading a growing congregation comes at a heavy price. Sleepless nights infused with day dreams of a revolution of love... If not us then who? If not here, then where? If not now, then when? The prophetic insomnia eats away at my conscience, demanding direction and visible leadership.
I can't keep __________ happy. I could give you a thousand reasons why his logic is flawed, not the least of which is the propensity to assume the world's revolution around his feelings. And then there is __________ who thinks that unless I am doing a certain number of things, then I am not filled by the Spirit of the Lord (as revealed to him by a 'fresh rhema'). And what about the audience that says I focus too much on feeding the poor and not enough on the confrontation of sin? Or the flip-side, those who threaten to walk away because I present a biblically literal interpretation of the afterlife? My heart is torn apart, and I just throw my hands in the air and say, "Why can't we just all love each other and work it out?"
We live in a generation of quitters. Never before in human history has there been such rampant anemia in the bloodline of the Family of Faith. We are terrified of committing ourselves to anything, or anyone, other than the pursuit of whatever we are feeling in the moment. We make our promises and verbal assents, but when it comes time to get off our asses, people are too busy 'praying about it'. And when the battle wages on, people are dying, children are starving, hate is winning, and we are sleeping.
I had to disconnect for awhile. I deactivated my Facebook account for a few days, and stopped taking phone calls. I am feeling the seductive weight of unbearable expectations. I can't do this anymore. Whatever 'this' is, it's not working.
I went for a long walk, around the bend and down the country roads near our house. The mountains of Western North Carolina provide the perfect backdrop for the Natural Revelation of God's insistence: The temporary treasures of fleeting moments, or fragile relationships built on false assumptions, are meaningless, meaningless, meaningless!
By the time I walked into the doorway of our home, Jamie greeted me. She told me that the girls have been waiting up because they were excited to tell me something... I walked into the living room where my three daughters were sitting on the couch in their princess dresses (pajamas!), and freshly painted, sun-kissed cheeks. "Daddy!" They squealed, "Guess what?"
I couldn't imagine what exciting news they had to share with me. I sat down across from them and asked what all the buzz was about. Ambria and Mariah both shouted at the same time, "We learned how to dive today!"
At the community pool, there is a deep end, treacherous to the beholding of a little girl. While I was walking off the steam of a thousand slivers of shallow shrapnel, my little girls were overcoming their fears of diving into the deep waters. While I was brooding over temporary rewards and fleeting satisfaction, they were finding new courage to dive headfirst into the unknown.
It's a right of passage! Learning to dive into the unknown requires knocking knees to buckle and leap, invoking the courage of overcoming fear and letting go... And when you come up swimming and breathing and satisfied, you feel exhilarated!
In that moment, as I kissed their sunburned cheeks, I found my center.