Monday, January 25, 2010

FULL DISCLOSURE: I SUCK

I’m going to make a few observations about myself in the interest of full disclosure.

Personally, I struggle with pride. Anyone who knows me knows this is true, so this isn't my big confession yet. That comes later.

Anyway, because of my struggle with pride, I’ve always had a hard time being the guy behind the pulpit. Not because I’m uncomfortable there, but precisely because I am much TOO comfortable in that spotlight. My love language is “Words of Affirmation” and whenever I am the focus of everyone’s attention I tend to absorb more than my fair share of ego-inducing energy. After a short time, I begin to see my sermons as performances and I tend to experience a blurring of focus. I start to believe my own hype and I over-internalize all those well-meaning comments about how great I am and what a good sermon I preached and how blessed they were and blah, blah, blah.

Let me be clear, I’m not against public speaking or teaching. It’s not a bad thing to have someone teach others about God’s Word for twenty minutes while they take notes, or better yet ask questions. God has given teachers to the Church for the building up of the Body. That's good. The problem I had with preaching in front of an audience was me. The problem was with me.

So, here I am, about four years later. I’ve started a house church in my home. I am no longer “the pastor” and I do not preach in any formal way. In fact, if anything, I’ve done my best to encourage others to teach and to share more than I do. I’ve also wrestled internally with being a member of the Body of Christ rather than as any sort of “leader” in the Body. I still think I talk too much, and others in our house church would agree. But overall it’s been a great experience for me to step down off the pulpit and allow others to teach me for a change.

Now and again I do still preach and teach, but only on rare occasions and, so far, only at other churches or gatherings outside of our house church. Again, I’m not against preaching at all and when it comes to my own issues with standing behind the pulpit I’ve mostly overcome the challenge.

So, imagine my despair when it dawned on me about a week ago that nothing has really changed at all. In fact, I still continue to preach from a pulpit and accept adoring praise as a way to fulfill my own ego and pride every single week. It's called: This blog you're reading right now.

My blog, and my Twitter page, and my Facebook account, are all just cyber-versions of that same pulpit I thought I had escaped. Each comment and Tweet sent my way in appreciation continues to feed my desire to be stroked. Every re-Tweet sent is yet another drop on my endlessly expanding ego sponge. Every shared link to my blog is just another brick in the ever-growing temple to my own vanity.

And there you have it. I suck.

Seriously, this realization nearly killed me. I mean, in my spirit, in my heart, it physically hurt me to the core. For the last seven days I have been in spiritual and psychological pain. One friend of mine described it as the Dark Night of the Soul and I would have to agree. It was very dark. My soul was in deep distress. I hated myself for being so foolish and selfish. And trust me, there's no greater suffering than for someone who loves himself to discover he cannot stand being in his own skin.

So, I contemplated ending my blog, killing my Twitter account and shutting down my Facebook page. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. What was the point anymore? I was so disgusted with myself for being so full of pride. The only thing that kept me sane during this time was my wife and her prayers for me. A few of you also prayed for me and I am grateful for those prayers, but sadly they did little to lessen the pain. When I closed my eyes at night and laid my head on the pillow one thing remained the same: I was still a scumbag. My prideful heart was still pumping strong. All I wanted to do was crawl under a rock somewhere and die.

Today I think I felt the clouds parting slightly. Maybe it’s not all for nothing. Maybe, in spite of my pride, God can still use my teaching ability. Much like my ordeal with preaching from the pulpit, I was able to manage my own response to those words of affirmation and continue to teach, however sporadically, without allowing the praise to go to my head. Perhaps, with my blog, I can do the same thing? Maybe I can continue to write articles and encourage people here without taking myself too seriously? Maybe, now that I am aware of my weakness, I can learn to manage this part of my pride as well? Maybe.

So, for now, I will continue to write articles here and to Tweet now and again, and to post things over on Facebook once in a while. But, today I am more aware of my own wicked heart and my own deceitful nature. My hope is that I can edify and encourage you – my brothers and sisters in Christ – without using this as a platform to spread my own meager fame.

Again, the problem here is not with blogging, or the internet. The problem is with me. I am the problem. The tool is just a tool, but I need to learn to use the tool for the common good, and not for my own selfish purpose.

Please forgive me for being a hypocrite. I hope to improve my serve in this area, as God gives me Grace.

Peace to you,
Keith

4 comments:

D. L. Webster said...

I have a good friend who struggles similarly. He likes to be the center of attention, but then feels guilty thinking he's doing all for himself. From what I understand, some people have a performer type personality (and the love language thing is similar). So my question is, if we are made with our personalities like this, when is it ok to be that way and God uses it, and when is it a problem? Maybe it's just a fine line to walk?

Lex said...

I had that same thing happen about a year ago, and it sucks. I was ready to shut down everything and leave the ministry all together 'cause my own pride was so disgusting.

I think God lets us see that sometimes so we can work on it, but the constant condemnation - hearing those accusations even as you lay in bed - are not God. Satan is called "the accuser."

Not that that makes it easy to deal with, of course. It's hard to work on it without giving in to "I suck." I feel you, man.

The Obvious Boy said...

Hey scumbag....I got a few words for ya:
Whether you struggle with this or not, I ASSURE you, God is using your articles and your books. I am going through a pretty weird time right now in my walk. Not a "bad" time, life is grand. I just have a LOT of questions about the Christian life and what we've made of it in the church. Your two books have been an answered prayer...You have no idea how much they have helped me along with figuring out some of this stuff. Not only me, but friends of mine who are struggling with some of the same issue...I share your insight. Hopefully, these "Words of Affirmation" won't have the negative effect you were referring to. Instead, I hope they come across as encouragement. God CERTAINLY is using you in spite of yourself. Don't stop writing. I can't thank you enough, friend. Now, with that said, I don't TWEET. You're on your own there. :)

Morgon77 said...

Something that we all have to realize is that sin is just taking something that's good, that was created for beauty and goodness and growth, and turning it into something selfish and self-centered.

We live in a world that turns entirely on people being selfish. Sin is incredibly difficult to escape, and often we do so only by our continuing efforts to align our hearts with God.

So yeah, there will be constant realization that this thing is ashes, that we do things for bad reasons. But God continues to use those things anyway. We can only keep seeking to be constantly mindful of Him, and to keep growing in the process.