Surrendering My Story
“You serve by living your story of redemption in front of the church”- Joey White
I’ve had some moments in the last couple months since starting this job where I’ve thought, “Crap. I really thought I would have had things figured out by now.” When I used to envision the Derek that would be starting in ministry, I envisioned a guy that had most things figured out. No more pride issues, super confident in the tasks he had to do, disciplined in his daily life, a thriving relationship that was clearly on its way to marriage (duh), and most importantly, at a place where the only affirmation he needed was in his identity in Jesus. Unwavering throughout life’s ups and downs.
Welp, I think I’m pretty dang close to 0 for 5 on those. I still struggle with a nasty combination of pride and insecurity that affects me in many ways, stay up way too late doing absolutely nothing (I’ll plead the fifth on the relationship status), and I still do seek approval from people and places that are not the unchangeable love of Christ.
And maybe it was the same for some of you. You achieved that promotion, got married, or had kids, but realized you were nowhere near where you thought you’d be at that point and thought, “Well, what now?”
I think when we are given tasks or responsibilities that we realize we are not equipped for, there are three responses that we typically choose.
One response is to flee from the task. If you feel God is calling you to have a hard conversation, you avoid it. If you feel led to serve, you get “too busy” with other tasks. We recognize our shortcomings and run from the places God has led us.
The second response is to pretend like you have all the answers. Give the solution that you yourself are not confident in, even try convincing yourself that you are more confident than you really are. Never ask for help. Never say, “I don’t know.” A lot of false humility. We recognize our shortcomings and try to fill the gap ourselves.
I’ve had these two reactions a lot in my life, more so the second. As someone who wants people to look at him with admiration, I feel the pressure to pretend to have it all together often. And after a period of time, I actually begin to believe that I have it all together. Until it all crashes and burns.
But there is a third response. And it’s the hardest one. It involves embracing my own weakness, my own brokenness, and relying on God. It involves a lot of saying, “I don’t know,” “I’m sorry,” “I don’t know how you feel, but I’m here for you,” “Let’s walk through this together,” and “I need help.” We can call it “stay and surrender.”
One of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 12:9. Paul is talking about this thorn in his flesh that he has cried out to God to remove, but God hasn’t done it yet. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
Boasting in my weakness is pretty counter to my nature. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect. Maybe you do as well. I feel like I have to be the “perfect Christian” that is the best example to anyone that looks at me. This pursuit does not allow me to deal with my own brokenness because I constantly feel like I have to be the secure one for everyone else’s brokenness. But here’s the truth – I’m not perfect. We aren’t called to be perfect. Jesus already was. We are called to be present and be real.
Oftentimes the story I put out, whether it be through social media or conversations, is different that the actual story I’m living. Neater, more polished, more insightful, more well thought out – but less inspirational because it isn’t real. Less life changing because it doesn’t reflect the real work of God in my life.*
Here’s my story: God is good. I have grown a ton in my life, specifically in the last 4 years. God has transformed me. But there are still good and bad days. I still make mistakes. And I realize more fully the more internal sins I struggle with. But God is unchanging in His goodness and grace.
Why would I hide this? Paul says earlier in 2 Corinthians 4 that the light we have been given is carried in our brokenness to show that our goodness comes from God, not us. Les Sharp, Brady’s former youth pastor in Borger, used the great analogy of a broken pot covering a light: the light is shown through the cracks, not the perfections. Covering my imperfections does nothing but hide God’s amazing grace from the world.
I don’t want the people that interact with me to go away talking about how great I am (Well, I kind of want that, but that’s part of the problem). I want the people that know me to think, “Wow, if God can use Derek, He can use me, no doubt,” and, “If God shows Derek grace and love and gives him freedom and confidence, I have no doubt that God can do the same for me.”
There are things that God has gifted me in, that I am good at. And I want to embrace those and be confident in those things. Understanding my shortcomings means embracing all of me, allowing God to work through my strengths as well as my weaknesses. Letting every part of me point towards Him.
My story isn’t perfect, but it can be real when I surrender.
*The best artists invite us into their struggles in life through their art. We relate to this. We are all drawn to realness, not perfection.
(Joey White preached a sermon this past Sunday that speaks on this subject more clearly than I have http://harriscreek.org/resources/sermons)