Emotions are a strange thing. They can lead you in really strange directions and, to be honest, deceive you. It’s no wonder that scripture says “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9)
For the past 6 months I’ve been struggling with a definite call for change in my life. At first I had no idea what that looked like. And then on a trip to Cornerstone Festival God began to speak and he began to make things clear.
As a result of that, it meant that I was going to have to let go of a lot… little did I know how hard that would be.
In a very quick turn of events I was no longer a pastor, in the traditional sense of the word. My position, which I had to let go of anyway, was passed onto an awesome couple and I was then without what had come to define me. For nearly 5 years I had been the youth pastor at The Lighthouse. I had been part of numerous lives, helped change the way we ministered, upset a lot of people (haha), used by God to bring joy to a lot of people, built a group from nothing and in the blink of an eye it was all gone… well at least my position… my title… my identity.
This is where emotion gets tricky. When we begin to change the things that we are built on. For the past 5 years I had developed an identity and it was strongly attached to a position. The truth is, that I had lost perspective on my “position” and “title” both of those things had evolved into something they weren’t meant to be.
Don’t get me wrong, I still loved people, loved ministering, and loved the Lord… my perspective on the “title” and “position” didn’t change how the Lord used me. Much like Jonah, whose perspective was warped but God still accomplished what he needed to through him, God was still using me. And also, much like Jonah, I had stopped receiving joy while working alongside God, while doing the things that He was calling me to, while hearing his words… I lost perspective, I lost one of the greatest things that we can have as believers. It became about me. The title that I carried so proudly for so long was much like the vine that the Lord provided for Jonah to give him shade. I had grown very comfortable there and then when he took that away I, much like Jonah, was dismayed and disheartened.
This has gone on for a while, without me even realizing it. It wasn’t until a couple of mornings ago that it hit me. I’ve been steady in the word, and reading authors that share the same faith as me, I’ve been focused on staying in the routine of time with Jesus… but that was the problem, it had become routine, my heart was not in it, i was just doing it because that’s what I was “supposed” to do. It had lost the sacredness that it once had… even when the Lord would speak to me with revelation it had lost the sweetness that it once had. Again like Jonah, I didn’t notice that. I didn’t notice that the Lord was speaking to me, or at least I didn’t take joy in that. Instead I was focused on the situation at hand and His voice became a noise in the background.
I had become a man ruled by emotion. I had lost sight of where my foundation was. My foundation was still there, I had just lost perspective on it. The best thing that I can compare it to is the overly dramatic teenage girl that gets on a rollercoaster. Everybody, including her, knows that the ride is safe, that foundation is clearly laid. But as the ride takes off she begins to have an “anxiety attack”… and as it continues she becomes terrified. By the end of the ride she is crying, with snot running down her face, throwing up, and screaming “somebody save me, I’m dying, I can’t breath”
Albeit my case is not this extreme, it is exactly the same thing and just as ridiculous. I KNOW that I am safe, But I allowed my perspective to be ruled by situation rather than reality. Much like the hypothetical dramatic teenage girl on the roller coaster as my life began to spiral I began to cry with snot running down my face, emotionally vomiting on everybody near me saying “save me”. Of course “save me” is the right thing to scream with the right perspective, only my perspective wasn’t the right one. I was lost, because I had made my perspective myself. So I was essentially screaming “save me” to myself… a little on the schizophrenic side of things, huh?
This is a horrible perspective to have, but sadly one that we often fall prey to.
So just a few day’s ago the devotional I was doing directed me through a couple verses…
1) “Not that we are competent in ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” –2 Cor 3:5
I had begun to lose perspective on where my competence in ministry had come from. It was never mine to begin with. This is something that I once understood clearly, but had lost. I felt that efforts on my behalf where were effective. When in reality it was, and is, a gift from the Lord… it has little to nothing to do with me. I once heard a pastor say “God chose to speak through an ass once, and he’s been doing it ever since.” I needed to be reminded of this. I’m just blessed to be used by Him… I’m not worthy, regardless of any effort I have put in. I can’t earn that honor, it’s grace that allows me to participate. It’s grace that makes me a competent minister of the gospel. Jesus smacked me around with this verse. He brought me back to the perspective of where my foundation is. I stopped screaming and wiped my nose. But he wasn’t done. He really wacked me with the next verse he directed me to.
2) “…Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” Gen 28:16
Jacob had a dream and in the dream he realized that he had been in the presence of God and had not realized it! Imagine that, being in the presence of God, and not realizing it… Imagine God being right there with you, when you were beaten and broken and emotional basket case, feeling that you needed him the most BUT YOU HAD IGNORED HIM. He was there the whole time but you were too focused on yourself to allow Him to comfort you.
I had been in his presence, heck I had even heard his voice, but there is a difference between hearing His voice and being able to recite what he says and REALY LISTENING. I have 4 kids, my oldest can usually recite what I asked her to do, I call that hearing, but often times she will forget right after and completely neglect what I just asked of her… which would have been listening. Hearing happens regardless… we hear all of the time, listening is more intentional. It requires effort.
God had been near me and I knew it but I had been neglecting intentionality. Just like listening to music. You can play it and hear it, or you can fully submerse yourself in it and LISTEN.
During my time of self-pity, I had forgotten to listen. I could hear just fine, but I had forgotten the sweetness of the melody of his voice. I had forgotten how great it was to submerse myself in his glorious presence. The symphony of God is unimaginable. It is something that is beyond comparison, and somehow in the midst of the changes in my life I had neglected to stop and listen. Instead I could hear the sound, but I was too caught up in life to listen.
I’m not the first person in history to be in the presence of God and not know it. It happens through out scripture, so I don’t have to beat myself up over it. I just need to be reminded sometimes. Heck, it doesn’t hurt to remind me all of the time!
You know the best part of it all? When you do realize it, and you go back to that place, when you repent from the perspective that you had, and turn to the right perspective he is there waiting for you.
You don’t have to be participating in what is traditionally called sin to repent. Paul wasn’t an “active sinner” when he considered “legalistic righteousness, faultless” (Php 3:6) it was a frame of mind, according to the law he was “legalistically righteous” . Scripture says, “…everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Rom 14:23) Scripture makes it clear that things we can see going on around us do not require faith “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Heb 11:1) amongst other verses. So essentially what Paul was doing, although he was living an externally righteous life, was living out according to what was visible or “legalistic righteousness” 2 Cor. 5:7 tells us, “We live by faith, not by sight.”Like Paul, I had began to depend on the external, rather than the eternal. There is a deeper level of connection with God when our faith is not determined by our actions, but rather when our actions are determined by our faith.
Paul realized this when he encountered Jesus, he repented of that frame of mind for the precious presence of God. He then said “I consider everything a loss compared to knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” (php 3:8) he even goes so far as to say he considers everything else rubbish…. Well that’s our translation, the Greek word is “skubalon” and some scholars say it has a nastier meaning that I will refrain from using so as not to offend anyone.
So I am at a point acknowledging my weakness, accepting that everything else is skubalon and acknowledging my poor perspective and I am repenting.
I am coming back to a place of knowing where my foundation is.
With this revelation just now setting in I’m already dancing to the melody of His voice. The presence of God is here and now, he dwells in us and his DNA is intertwined with our being. His spirit dwells in us! When Moses stepped onto the mountain in the presence of God, God told him to remove his sandals. Have you “removed your sandals” today?
It’s amazing how therapeutic acknowledging how much we are not and how much he is can be. Acknowledging our shortcomings is when he begins to shine. In our weakness his righteousness is made whole.
Take time to admit that you are not a competent minister alone, but your competence comes from the Lord. If you, like me, have been focused on self go ahead and acknowledge that right now. And turn to him.
And if you have been in His presence but only heard Him as background noise then stop… listen…. Take off your shoes and dance!