Sometimes we do the things we hate. And sometimes we get confused and begin to hate ourselves for the things we’ve done.
There is a world of difference between ‘walking in the light’ while confessing our sins (1 John 1.7-10) and letting our sins define our identity. While it is appropriate to mourn our sin (Matthew 5.4), it is not appropriate to hate ourselves.
In the heat of the moment of regret and shame, we can almost think that self-loathing is good and right and biblical (after all, we have offended a Holy God and become unclean!). But in truth, God never calls us to hate ourselves.
The truth is that God loves us (John 3.16, 1 John 4.10). And the only one who loves our self-loathing is Satan.
1. Because when I loathe myself I loathe someone created in the image of God
Proverbs 17.5 says ‘whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker.’ James writes that the tongue ‘is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so’ (James 3.8-10).
What I say about people, I say about God. This is true whether I am demeaning other humans or myself. Even inward, self-loathing insults my Maker, in whose image I was created.
2. Because it diminishes my joy
It’s not the first time for us. I came into the office the other day to find a desk where my brother has faithfully worked, now cleared.
Empty desk. Empty chair.
For years we have worked with, watched, and tried to train our brother for the work of ministry. We’ve learned together, laughed together, laboured together in prayer and in the day-to-day tasks of leading a church.
But now he’s gone. Gone to the work to which God has called him.
Looking at the empty desk, I can’t but wonder if we’ve done enough. There are so many things that remain untaught, unsaid. So many things I wish we could have talked about. So many ways I wish I could have been a better example. So many things I wish we could have better prepared him for.
Looking at the empty desk, I’m touched by sadness. This brother and his family have been so faithful, and grown so close to our hearts as individuals, and as a church family. Now they’re moving far away and who knows when we’ll be able to see them again?
As I peek my head around the corner and look down to the end of the dark hallway I’m able to see what made the noise. From the bedroom emerges a little girl. She’s got a blanket in one hand and her favourite stuffy gripped tight to her body with the other. Her hair is dishevelled; a mess that only a sleeping toddler could make.
When she spots me, she shuffles down the hallway with purpose. Without making any eye contact, she presses her body up close against my leg while I finish brushing my teeth. She waits for me and doesn’t move.
Stacey has been out of town on a mom getaway-planning-shopping retreat for the past couple of nights. I’m not sure why this particular child is up at this particular point of the night, but I know we’re all a little zapped from the feeling of just not having mom around.
I finish brushing my teeth and begin the inquisition.
‘Why are you up? Are you scared? Did something happen? Do you need to use the toilet? Are you thirsty? Do you feel sick?’
No answer. No eye contact. Just pressing against me and hugging my leg. No words.
We’ve All Got Questions
We all have questions we’d like answers to. But sometimes the questions we have of God can be the scariest to ask: we want to be reverential, not blasphemous. What if the question offends God?
More than that, deep-down we can be kind of afraid that there is no answer. What would that mean for our faith?
For some, the persistent presence of questions unasked has been a catalyst to their rejecting or abandoning of the Christian faith all together. That need not be so. In fact, the people in the Bible — those God uses to write his very word! — often asked the toughest questions of all.
Have you read them?
Many of you earnestly desire to hear your pastors preach better sermons. While you can tell that he labours away, you long for more passion, more earnestness, more deliberateness, or more clarity. That’s understandable. Most preachers would like to grow in these ways as well. (And the ones who don’t really need prayer.)
One of the best ways you can help your pastor’s preaching is by praying for him. But did you know you can do even more than that? And it’s not that difficult, either.
A Word for Pastor’s Wives
Being a pastor’s wife is a tough calling. And it is one that very few women sign up for, knowing what they are getting into.
When you are a pastor’s wife there are high demands and lots of hard work. You know people have high expectations of you, but they are never clearly defined. There is only ever a vague sense of whether or not you’re meeting the standards of the people you’re aiming to serve.
Against the notion that ‘the pastor’s wife is special,’ pastors encourage our wives: Be a normal member, be a normal wife, be a normal mother. That sounds nice, doesn’t it?
But there are still unspoken pressures. You have to be exemplary.
If your home isn’t right, or if you don’t invite the right people over enough times, you’re not hospitable. Simply having a bad Sunday can mean that people think you’re unfriendly, or unwelcoming. If you have friends in the church, people may perceive you as ‘cliquey’ and say you have favourites. And if you don’t have friends, you might look ‘stand-offish’ or ‘unavailable.’
And on top of that you have a husband who, more often than not, works weird hours, feels burdened with anxiety for the church, and is weighed down by other people’s sins and sorrows (many of which he can’t share). He is relationally drained long before he enters the home at night — right when you need him to engage. And even in sharing your struggles with him you feel guilty, like you’re ‘piling on’ to someone who is already carrying too much.
But for the pastor’s wife who is truly, first of all, a wife to her husband, there is a great promise of great reward.
You don’t have to be involved in many discussions on the issue of gender roles in the New Testament and the church today before someone cites the ‘culture Paul / Peter was writing to.’
They usually argue that the culture ‘back then’ was different. Women weren’t educated, had no opportunities to grow, teach, express themselves, attain to leadership positions. Paul was going along with some of the cultural assumptions he had inherited from the ancient world, so as to earn Christianity a hearing.
But our culture now is far more progressive. Things are different now, it is argued, and so our understanding of the roles of men and women must also progress from where it was ‘back then.’
One of the (several) things that is wrong with this argument is that it often assumes a simplistic and monolithic view of gender roles and identity across all swaths of society in the Roman world. But such was not the case then, as it is not the case now.