Monday, May 5, 2008
When I was an intern at our church, I went through a season where I was a complete and utter mess. (I like to think I have moved out of that now! :) )
One morning, our wee intern group was having devotions together and we were doing a check on each other to see how we were doing. Most of us were struggling and a little discouraged. We were quite honest and upfront with each other in this.
About an hour later, we were up in the office of our pastor (who was away on sabbatical). We had our first mentoring session with Robert Fergusson, who at the time was the head of Hillsong Bible College, as well as a pastor at Hillsong church. Robert is razor sharp, a very wise and godly man and a gifted teacher. He is one of the few people I have ever met who truly marry truth and love. Anyway, we were sitting in the office, Robert looked around with a little grin on his face and said, “So guys. How’s it going?”
We went around the room (5 of us were there) and each person said something along the lines of, “oh praise God brother. It’s great. Just awesome etc.” You get the picture. I was mad! I am looking around the room, thinking of the discouraged conversation I was part of an hour earlier and thinking, “you pack of liars!”
Robert said, “So, are there any questions you would like to ask me? Anything.” As it was my turn to speak, I decided I was just going to say it as it was (no surprise to those of you who know me!).
I said (and note the third person here), “So, what do you do when you are a leader and you are a mess. You are such a mess that you would not be in church except it’s your job. You don’t want to pray for people because what are you going to impart to them. You are just a wreck but it’s your job to be on top of it, pouring out to others.”
Robert responded along the lines of, “and you just want to be left alone in the dark. Someone turn the light out and just leave me …” As he spoke, you could see the atmosphere in the room change. Interns leant forward on their chairs and you could see a sense of relief written on their faces. The thought was evident: “someone understands, someone knows.” Robert said a few more things and it drew people out more, and heads started nodding. Then, as he drew people in (like reeling fish on a line), he sat back with a grin and said, “Well, that’s just selfish isn’t it!”
It was like a verbal slap and was I mad! I came back with both fists flying (metaphorically speaking) and said, “Well no. I am serving. I am … (note the change from third person to first here?!)” Just as I got to the “I am… “ bit, God spoke clearly and sharply in a nanosecond to me. And this is what I heard: “and why are you serving Sarah? Because you don’t want to be alone with me. You don’t want to be still. You are serving me to avoid me. And that is selfish.” Whoa. Caught me completely off guard and I shut up. Robert went on to share some life changing things that day, and it was the beginning of me getting out of my pit.
Why am I sharing this with you today? It is because I have had a question running around in my head for the last week or so. The question is this:
“What happens when our giftings get entwined with our unhealed wounds?”
Selah. Which means, pause and think on it for a moment.
I have been thinking about this a lot. And before I share my thoughts, I want to clarify a couple of things from the start. Can God use us when we are wounded? Of course. To a degree, we are all walking wounded. Can God bring good from our wounds and our scars. Absolutely. But many of us are walking around with toxic, infected, pus-oozing wounds. We have not taken time to take care of these, or allow God to. It is these wounds that I want to talk about today.
So I ask you again. What happens when our giftings get entwined with our unhealed wounds? Or even more specifically, what happens when our wounds become the driving force behind our giftings and our Christian service. What happens?
I wonder if this is how we lose sense of personal boundaries. We give and give at the expense of ourselves and our families. We serve out of wounds that tell us we are not good enough – so we do more and more and end up martyring ourselves. Something drives us to keep giving – we never feel that it is enough. We feel guilty if we put up boundaries and say no while seeing other people serving. Or perhaps we are experiencing the flip side of our lack of boundaries, and we feel resentful, if we are serving and other people say no.
I tried putting this in a context of some of our giftings. Lets take a look:
Maybe we speak and do not listen because we feel validated by what we say and how its received. Maybe we do not feel like what we say matters if we are not heard by large numbers of people. Maybe we discount the impact of our words on those in our immediate sphere of influence such as family, friends and workplaces.
Maybe we teach but we do not learn because we are afraid to look within. Maybe we teach and do not learn because we are critical of everyone else’s teaching.
Maybe we give and are not able or comfortable to receive. Maybe we give, and do not take – time for God, ourselves, families and friends. Maybe everyone else’s needs are more important than our own.
Maybe we have the spiritual gift of prophesy and we are able to see. Maybe when we see, we are harsh and judgemental instead of the voice of mercy and grace found at the feet of God.
Maybe we are evangelists and we get caught up with catching souls and forgetting the person they belong to. We get preoccupied with numbers and do not follow up or disciple those we lead to Christ. We do not get involved with their life. We move on, leaving them floundering and feeling like a number.
Maybe we have the gift of serving and we serve and serve, ignoring the service that needs to happen at home with our families. But it’s okay because we are doing the work of God, and our families should understand that. Our families are also the work of God!
I am thinking about how Jesus said, “love your neighbour as you love yourself.” Read it again: “love your neighbour as you love yourself.” That’s right people, how can we love our neighbours if we do not love ourselves? It is not an excuse to be narcissists and make ourselves the centre of our universe. I wrote a post on this concept a while back, so take some time to refresh yourself on that if you have not read it. The thing is, we cannot love our neighbours if we do not love ourselves because it will be flawed.
Somehow, over the years at church, we have made self-love an unwritten crime. We equate self-love with selfishness. We feel we are selfish if we put our needs ahead of others. Perhaps a key here is our needs vs our wants! Have we ever stopped in our lives and marriages etc to consider what we need? Have we done this in our own personal lives? I think women generally are not good at this. I am generalising, but so many women are caregivers, they feel guilty when someone elses needs do not get met and their own do. Jesus had needs. There were times when he withdrew to pray or just be with his people. He did not go on a non-stop tiki tour of meeting everyone else’s needs and wants. He knew he couldn’t. Look at the sick man by the pool. Quite probably, there were lots of people by the pool. Legend had it that if you were first in when the waters were stirred, you would be healed. You can bet your bottom dollar … there were a ton of sick people hanging out there, waiting to be first in. The thing is, there will always be people needing us and wanting us. And lets face it, it feels good to be needed and wanted doesn’t it! But, think on this. If Jesus could not meet all those demands on earth, neither can we. And if we try, or are driven by our wounds, we will be sucked dry, miss our primary callings and in the end, be of no help to anyone!
I write this post today with a sense of concern. Take some time to be still. Ask yourself these questions and ask God to speak to you. Is your life in balance? Are you being driven by unhealed wounds? Do you have a sense of guilt when you say no? Do you have any boundaries in your life? If not, why not? If not, who is suffering near you? Who in your family or friends is missing out? If you do have boundaries, are they so rigid that they are unmovable walls? Why? Do you feel unappreciated and let down by those you have tried to serve. Take some time to reflect on these questions and where you stand. Do you truly love yourselves? Are you caring for yourself so that you can better care for those God has called you to?
Father, I pray that you would draw us aside with you and speak to us about the wounds in our lives. I pray that you would heal them and bind up those who are broken hearted, those who are suffering, those who are driven. I pray that you bring peace and the knowledge that we are loved deeply by you. I pray that you would help us to prioritise our lives and that we would walk in your footsteps, according to your ways.