Today was the 10th anniversary of my first Sunday as a pastor. When I realized that last week I got really excited about spending this morning sharing with my fellowship the things I have learned in that time. Then, last night (Saturday), two things hit at once.
First, I hit eleven typed pages of things and realized I had hardly begun to capture the different things God has taught me in that time, which caused me to start to doubt the whole message idea, and feel suddenly overwhelmed at realizing that what I had intended for this morning wasn’t going to work. Second, some things happened in my personal life which, for some reason, hit me hard and in a vulnerable place and I found it difficult to pull out of it.
It is almost shocking to me how quickly I hit a place where I found the heavy situation of my heart standing as a mockery of all I had written about the strength and worship and joy, etc. which I had “supposedly” learned. I, in deep pain in my heart, cast to the side all I had written and in amazing speed was saying to myself, “Who are you kidding? You want to seem like some mature, sagely, aged pastor imparting years of wisdom when you are really so weak and shallow.” I became acutely aware of both the pride, and the insecurity, at work in me. It is amazing how those seemingly contradictory things can both work in you at the same time!
As I shared with some people, it was like I was surrounded by a black storm cloud that, thirty minutes before, hadn’t even been on the horizon! As a result I shared none of what I had written down about things God has shown me.
Here is the thing, though, and that which we must be acutely aware of. The devil, just as when he tempted Jesus, wraps just enough truth around his lies to get you to swallow the whole thing. Yes, some pride had slipped in. And, yes, there was some insecurity in wanting to be seen as wise and mature. But, I let those truths cause me to swallow the whole lie which said I had nothing to offer. I let the reality that I still struggle invalidate the fact that while I have a long way to go, I have also come a long way and learned a lot. I have, in these last ten years, gained a great amount of what I call “seasoning”—the depth of experience that accompanies the knowledge in the head about God, and has not only believed something to be true, but has also experienced its truth.
I have, through countless conversations and counseling sessions, involvements in people’s lives, funerals, watching lives and marriages both blossom and self-destruct, disappointments, hurts, heart wrenching fire calls, personal tests, etc., gained a depth of faith that is tremendously deeper than that which I had ten years ago when most of my faith was based more on Bible verses than the experience of living in faith based on those verses and seeing God back up His Word.
Did the devil rob me last night and this morning, or did I gift wrap it and give it to him? I’m not sure. But I do know that whatever happened he got one in. I tasted the truth coating and swallowed the whole poisoned pill. It is a tactic he has used time and again—since the Garden, in fact—and one we all need to be aware of and on guard against. And, it is usually true, that when he robs one person, he robs many more at the same time.