Monday, August 29, 2011

I have seen all of your wedding photos

I have never met you, I don't know you, but I guarantee that if you have posted your wedding photos on facebook, then I have looked at each and every one of them. Yes, my friends, the internet is public. Anyone can look at the photos you place there. Even with privacy settings, they might know someone who knows you. I know becasue I do this all the time - I love wedding photos, and you put them on the internet- party for me! But don't you see the problem this creates? All of the internet is public, not just your wedding photos. You may have noticed that this is the first thing I have posted in weeks.

I have been avoiding the blog these days because I keenly aware that it is public. Straight up public. And while, yes, that was the idea when I started a blog, I feel intimidated by the immensity of that reality. Who is out there? And who is reading all of my thoughts? Are they up to snuff? While I care about what others think of my writing, my ideas, and the heart behind them, I have been crippled by my own self-doubt. This is in no way connected soley to my blog.

I have also been feeling this way about ministry. I want to do everything so amazingly well that people want to hear how I did it, and then I can have the best platform ever to share my passion for youth ministry. I want to make 12 dozen phone calls a week to all small group leaders and all students. I want to be able to do everything so, so well that I can win the war against my own doubts once and for all. Those doubts are what really is at the heart of wanting to be the best youth worker that ever lived, EVER. This is the embarassing battle that has been going on in me. You see, if I was bloggin about those things, then they would be out there, like your wedding pictures. I love wedding pictures, and I look at the decorations, colors, dresses, suits, tuxes and I make a mental list of things I like and don't like. Don't you? And therein lies my problem with the blog - are people making lists about the things I am putting on the itnernet? I would be. Back to the gnawing self-doubts.

Not blogging and the driving desire to over perform in youth ministry are the same root for me: insecurity and the inability to hide myself in a loving God. I know that when I can accept my weaknesses that the Spirit will be there in them, and will show all His strength and that will be so much better. What I need to do is to bring this insecurity and need for affirmation and achievement to the Lord, He is always encouraging me, pointing out what I am really good at, and reminding me of where I am broken. He is the answer to the self-doubt that has kept me from writing and that is driving me to perform in ministry.

It is applying and injesting the knowledge that is the hard part. Knowing that God's tender, open, loving heart is the answer to my insecurity does not make it all that much easier to walk into that love. It helps, a little. What really seems to help for me is confession. This weekend, on a youth ministry leadership retreat, I brought these fears to light. And I was met with understanding, compassion, and prayer. I don't know what this struggle will look like going forward. I have no idea. I hope that I will be able to remember both that everything I do is flawed, just like those whom I respect the most. I hope to be able to let the compassion, understanding, and truth that I encountered this weekend to encourage me to continue to bring my insecurity and desire for fame into the light. It is there that I have found the most comfort and the most humility for my pride. Because I tasted the reality that we are all just broken people doing the best that we can to serve God and love teenagers. That is all we can be.

So, I am putting this on the internet, out there, in public. I am hoping it will serve as a reminder for me that I am broken.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


We often concieve of hope as an empty glass we wish were full. But hope is not empty. Hope is an activity. It is more like hiking a mountian than a glass half-full. I am by no means an expert on hiking, but I have been on enough trails to get the general idea. At some point during a hike I inevitably get frustrated. This is hard, Why am I doing this again? I am so out of shape, my lungs are burning, my legs hurt and my poor, flatlander body cannot get enough air at a mile and a half above sea level. One of my greatest challenges (besides generally being out of shape) is to get to a point where I find a reason to fight through all of the pain and frustration. SOMETHING has to motivate me to get off the rock, back on the trail, and through the next set of obstacles. Ususally that something is the view.  There is nothing quite like the view from the top of a mountian, and usually the desire for that view that drives me through the uphill climb, and one more switchback. When I arrive, it is even more valuable and breathtaking because of the effort. In some way I have owned a part of the mountian through my toil; the view belongs to me and I to it.

Summiting the mountian is, of course, the best-case scenario. My Dad, who is a seasoned and accomplished hiker has rules for climing. "A day in the wilderness is never wasted."  "There is no view like the one from the top." My Dad knows that sometimes we don't make it. We may not experience the thing we are hoping for, but it is rewarding to go through the effort anyway. So, also, is Biblical hope. Hope fights through opposition and has its own rewards. When we hope in something, we are letting go of the present reality with one hand  and reaching towards the coming, hoped-for reality with the other. We pass up on somethng immediate for something not yet actual. We put our time, effort, energy and recources into that something that is not yet actual because we hope that it will be actual. This is hard to describe because most of this effort is interal and abstract, but it is real effort nonetheless. The Biblical idea of hope is not wishful thinking, it is an active investment in a reality that God has promised. I don't just sit and wait for the fulfillment of the promise, I am motivated enough to invest in it.

Hope fights through opposition and has its own rewards. Hope must acknowledge both dissapointment and possibility as real and valid. It must wrestle equally with both and be swayed ever just the tiniest bit more by possibility. (It must be so much easier for an optimist to hope) Those who hope lets themselves be motivated enough by the promise of God that they move towards that possibility.

I am greatly encouraged by this. And I have to fight for hope itself to have space in my heart because it takes energy, time, and investment. These days I have to move aside despair, self-pity, and pride to make room for hope. No, hope is not passive. Instead, the call of the Spirit is to get up, face the trail ahead of me, and keep walking because the view is worth the effort. And in so doing I am both getting closer to the summit and also reaping the rewards of a day in the wilderness. Hope, my friends, is active, and it is far from empty.