I think most of us hope and believe at the end of all things we will hear “well done My good and faithful servant.”
But what if we’re in for is hearing the words “You’re done.”
In other words, you ran a race, you crossed the line, but there’s not much else to say.
We flatter ourselves – wait, let me reframe this: I flatter myself that the words Paul hoped to hear could possibly also be applied to me. I’m done with flattery.
I’m in a dark place. It feels like I’m done. A lot has been removed or taken away. College ministry – gone. The Core – gone. Teaching on Sunday – gone. My career – gone (see last post). I try to discern what God is doing.
What if what he’s doing is just taking things away because my faithfulness wasn’t enough? My efforts weren’t enough? My gifting wasn’t enough? I am not enough?
My time may be running out. What I’ve “accomplished” in my life may already be written down. This is it. And it wasn’t all that impressive. More fear than boldness. More dithering than duty. More safety-nets than faith.
I don’t know. And I don’t know why these dark thoughts are overtaking me. Maybe it’s because it’s what I would banish myself to if I were God.
It’s a good thing I’m not God.
In the meantime, I’m going to be stewing on this for awhile. Sitting in the ashes of my own inadequacy. Knowing I’ve never been enough, never will be enough, and am barely able to support the dreams that my family has, at this point. It’s like I’ve run out of usefulness but I don’t have the resources to be actually done yet. I have to keep motoring on, on three wheels.
Hoping the Lord either knocks some sense and grace into my head or helps me face up to this and take some better steps in the short time I have left to actually do anything useful.
I’m a mess.
There is no “morning bus ride” because of the pandemic, but I can still post (it has been awhile).
It was a hard week. Hard because I had a revelation this week and I’m still digesting it. On the bright side, I survived another round of layoffs at work. The thought of even complaining or lamenting at all during this time when I am relatively healthy and employed is almost obscene. There is so much bright side.
But on the perhaps also bright but right now it looks dark side, I also had a revelation. It was spurred by the fact that, while surviving the layoff, I was also removed from a leadership position at work. I was made an “individual contributor”. When I asked why, the response was terse and to the point. As a leader I have difficulty bringing things to completion.
So, my career is over. I am starting a new career at the same company as an individual contributor. I’ve always been a good individual contributor so there is reason for hope. I love doing the technical, individual work. I will not miss the management side of things. I’ll be keeping my head down, trying to add value, and trying to put myself in a position to survive the next round of layoffs. But the old career is over, and I was unsuccessful.
Now, for the revelation. I think this is from God. I believe God has been shouting this at me for several decades now.
I am not a leader.
I am a teacher. I am even a shepherd. But I am not a leader. I am never going to lead anyone to success. I am never going to “grow a ministry”. I am never going to be highly respect-able.
I am not a leader.
So, what now? A few things I hope to start doing.
- Quit bellyaching
- Be a teacher (albeit, I can’t really even do that right now in the pandemic, but those days will come again).
- Be a shepherd if ever given the opportunity to do that again.
- Quit fretting about respect. I am deeply loved. That should be enough. There has always been that elusive desire to be loved *and* respected. That desire needs to die. Everything isn’t about me.
- Be a very good follower, be a very good contributor, and hopefully (God willing) I’ll get a chance to show I can do those things for an extended period of time.
- If I can’t, and I don’t survive the next round of layoffs, or I lose my job for another reason, God is still there. God loves me. He knows my family needs provision. Keep the faith.
- Side note: regarding seminary – I have been on a break for the past few 8 week modules. I need to determine when to start up again. But I also need to determine *why* to start up again. I don’t think I will ever be a pastor, and I believe that I probably shouldn’t be a pastor (since pastors are leaders and I’m not a leader). Need to begin earnestly praying through this.
- Learn what it means to serve.
I may start posting more here again. Just writing this out helped. Today is a new day. Very thankful to still be employed.
A new episode of the Departied podcast is out, in which I respond to Dennis Prager’s argument that what we say in private is not a reliable standard by which to measure our character.
(To see what I’m responding to, here’s Dennis Prager’s Fireside Chat #117 – start around the one minute thirty mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJrEnoH46nM&t=90s )
When you defend someone without a moral compass, don’t be surprised if your own compass starts spinning.
Besides this, since you know the time, it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, because now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is nearly over, and the day is near; so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:11-12 CSB)
I remember waking up as a child, say in the middle of the summer or on a cold winter morning during Christmas break. What I remember is light and hope in a new day. It was . . . Bliss.
The contrast between that and trying to rouse my old, tired self in the darkness of 5:30am is, well, quite a contrast! When days are new and one hasn’t experienced very many, each day holds bright secrets and splendid serendipities.
Days pile upon each other and over time the sharp, bright trumpet of each new day becomes a dull pffft.
This should not be. Each day is a gift and, for the believer, one day closer to glory. Yes, jobs and responsibilities and routines and morning alarms might dull the edge of expectation and turn the morning spring into a desultory roll out of bed, but it ought not be that way.
We are alive. We are now. Each breath is a gift and the promise of the soon coming dawn should enliven us. It’s time to get up and get dressed.
And I’m not talking about khakis and a button down.
I read 1 Samuel 25 and Luke 1 this morning. I read Romans, including chapter 16, yesterday.
I love the Bible’s portrayal of these brave women. Abigail, Mary, Elizabeth, Junia, Prisca, Phoebe, and others.
There is a sense of fullest devotion in the stories of these valiant ones that rivals and often surpasses that of many of the men of the Bible. For instance, Abigail’s intercession for her husband’s men (and her worthless husband himself) saved not only them, but also David.
“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” – Jeremiah 8:20 ESV
From one of the darkest moments in the Old Testament Jeremiah cries out for Jesus.
Today I decided to pass on to others a ministry that I have given a lot of my heart, soul, mental and spiritual energy to over the past 4 years.
It is time.
This ministry has student officers now, they are organized and getting things prepared. I am not truly a student at that community college anymore, even though I still have an ID.
I have my doubts about how effective I have been after these four, almost five years and definitely about how well I have prepared these students. I only have them around two years, tops. Some are brand new. I don’t know what will happen.
“Faithful yet ineffective” may have to be good enough as an epitaph on my time there!
God surprises me all the time. I hope I am very pleasantly surprised by how well things work in this ministry without me (I hope that makes sense). We come and go. We have moments of triumph and regret, deft action and woeful mistakes. He, on the other hand, does all things well and works all things for good.
I am at peace. I have other ministry before me and still so, so much to learn, so much more love, grace and humility to gain, so much decreasing to do while He increases.
A little sad, but at peace. Thank you Lord!
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Matthew 5:6 ESV
Satisfaction. It is elusive. Many of us live with a gnawing sense of hunger, a dry thirst that cries out to be sated. But what are we hungry and thirsty for?
There is only one hunger and thirst that Jesus promises satisfaction for: righteousness. Many of us spend our lives hungering and thirsting for money, fame, influence, power, fun, pleasure, food and drink. We are a sad lot, because none of these things ultimately satisfy.
Hungering and thirsting for righteousness can be a hard road in this world that is so devoid of it. But ultimately that is where satisfaction lies, because that is where the golden Kingdom of Christ is. Our righteous King is beckoning us on and running before us, walking beside us, carrying us. Further up and further into the one who will set all things right.
Episode 18 of the Departied podcast is now available.
In 2003 I was online and blogging my support for the Iraqi invasion. I thought it would be a lot easier than it turned out to be, that a lot less people on both sides would die, and I had absolutely zero expectation that America’s various wars on terror would still be going on seventeen years later.
In 2004 one of my friends died in Iraq, in the Battle of Faluja.
We now find ourselves in an escalating situation with Iran.
I don’t have confidence anymore in my ability to predict what is going to happen, and I am far more cynical, world-weary, de-partied, and regretful than I was seventeen years ago.
Lord, have mercy. Bring peace.
Come soon Lord Jesus. We have proven over and over again that we can’t fix our problems or ourselves. The innocent die and the guilty live.
Only You can fix us and fix this.