Thursday, March 25, 2010

Of Birthdays and Brokenness

I turned 43 last week. Weird how getting old affects a guy. Yesterday I was 29 with two little kids. Now I’ve got three in double-digits. Yesterday I was running triathlons, weighed 180 lbs. and was often mistaken for a college student. Now, 15 lbs. and a few surgeries later, the significantly fewer [and more gray] hairs give my age away. I’m not cool anymore, and what really tells me I’m getting old is that I’m starting to really not care if I’m cool or not. This is, I am now understanding, why old men have hair sticking out of their noses and wear white calf-high socks with black hushpuppies. It is about comfort, not about what others think!

Yesterday (actually over 13 years ago) I came to Providence Church, a 59-attendee church (kids and all!) that met in Cedar Bluff Middle School. Today, we’re a bit larger and we’re still having a great time seeing people come to Jesus and grow in grace. I’ve made so many good friends, experienced some hurts, made many mistakes, and grown wiser and more in love with Jesus. It is funny how much I’ve changed what I think about some things and how I’ve become steeled in what I think about others. I’ve seen kids in our church grow up and have kids of their own. I’ve laughed...a lot. I tend to cry...more with every year.

One of the hardest things about ministry is how people come and go. Some people I have loved have hurt me deeply. It’s something I think about every day. I’m sure it is why many pastors burn out and/or move around so much. Staying in the same town for many years means frequently facing people (who don’t like you) and their gossip. The pain can be overwhelming. Every pastor feels betrayed from time to time. If they don’t run, they can respond in other wrong ways: become bitter, combative, or calloused, or even feel defeated and depressed. I tend to fight the latter. I tend to fret over mistakes I’ve made and missed opportunities. Sometimes I even ponder whether it is worth the pain to tell people the truth (of course, I know it is). Dwelling on hurt isn’t good, but it is certainly not good to just pack it away and not deal with it. I choose to deal with it by prayer, and by writing thoughts down (like I’m doing now). It also helps to have people close to me who care enough to listen.

I am blessed that both of my parents are still alive. My mom sent me an encouraging text at the very minute I was born (43 years earlier) to say “happy birthday.” It reminded me that God had a reason to bring me in to this world. All I want to do is fulfill his purpose for me. What frustrates me is how I far I have to go. I fight with my flesh, the world, and the Devil, who all conspire to render me less useful. I know my primary objective in life is to bring glory to God and make disciples, beginning with my responsibilities as a husband and father. After that I am called to be a pastor of the flock called Providence Church. These are enormous responsibilities, for which I feel entirely inadequate. There are times I fight feelings of failure. Indeed I have failed in many ways.

My dad gave me a birthday call, too. On his way back from a coaches’ convention in Georgia, he stopped by and spent the night. We looked at old pictures and stayed up late talking. He had many encouraging words to say. I went to bed feeling blessed that I was given such a godly heritage and great foundation. God has given this to me and I don’t want to squander it. I am so undeserving, yet so thankful for God’s grace upon which I must depend. The same God who orchestrated all these blessings past that I could not control, commands the future. My only logical response is twofold: to yield—that is, to be broken before the One who is sovereign, ask him to use me, and to make me usable; and to love—desire him with all my heart and worship him with my efforts and actions without regard for selfish gain.
“One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:13-14


Lisa said...

Love that Scripture. That is exactly what I have been doing...looking ahead, not back. Well, looking back enough to try and learn from mistakes but not dwelling there. Instead dwelling on what's praiseworthy, right, lovely, etc. I've been going through Psalms each morning and latching on to one positive thought for the day. Wow, what a difference that mindset makes!! I've been realizing that I can hinder others from following God if I am depressed, always negative, and lacking joy. Can't afford that! So I press on.

Also love that you are so real and honest. Thanks for blessing us with your care and work.

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Anonymous said...

Chadney - tear down your walls!!

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RB said...

I have to admit that I can relate to having the attitude of sacrificing "cool" for comfort. But, I can always blame the poor fashion sense on being color blind. After all white socks go with everything, right?
As for your struggles with the devil and the world, I will leave you with my favorite qoute from Winston Churchill - "Never give up, never give up, never give up!"

Anonymous said...

I like the post. I also feel similar pains and temptations. It is very helpful to know my pastor feels them too. I hate you are hit with so much from people who want to cause hurt.
I enjoyed your father when he spoke at manday night the other night! Thanks for being a guy we can count on to lead us well!