Two weeks ago today, I was frustrated. The Christian twitter / facebook / blog world was in an uproar over a controversial conference that seemed to be all-consuming to many. I let it get to me too.
So on that particular day, I gave in to my frustration, and I posted a controversial blog post. Whether or not it was right, it was emotionally charged and reactionary. And a couple of my friends reminded me that that’s not who I am, so I deleted the post.
Since then I’ve been thinking a little bit about that little ‘foray’ into reactionary / controversy-stirring kind of blogging. Here are some of my thoughts as I’ve reflected.
1. Things rarely need to be said so fast
I rarely say anything best when I think of it quickly. As I said some time ago, one of the temptations to sin in a social media world is instant publication for instant gratification and instant vindication rather than long-term and wide-ranging edification. I gave in to that by speaking quickly.
I’m slowly learning that my heart is too easily affected by all the wrong things, yet it remains stubbornly hard precisely where I need it to be soft.
I’m slowly learning that after 32 years, I still don’t know myself nearly as well as I should.
I’m slowly learning that I don’t have nearly the platform with people that I once thought I did; an authoritative voice is earned over the long haul.
I’m slowly learning that the louder I speak on peripheral issues, the quieter my voice becomes when calling people to the centre.
I’m slowly learning that I’m not nearly the husband, dad, friend, pastor, or Christian that I thought I would be by now.
I’m slowly learning that what I want my life & ministry to be characterized by when I’m 74 needs to be what characterizes my life & ministry now.
I’m slowly learning that it is possible to idolize good things like unity and peace; and also that joy quickly turns to rage when those idols are toppled.
I’m slowly learning that very few people in the wold are called to be ‘the voice in the wilderness.’ Probably far fewer than evangelicalism — myself included — currently recognizes.
I’m slowly learning that praying for something doesn’t mean that I’m actually believing God can and will act.
It’s my birthday. If you know me, you know that this is a time of year when I typically do some reflection and ponder life a little bit (here’s an example). As I’ve reflected on this past year of my life and where it fits in the general direction of my life, I realized something: The longer I live, the more thoroughly unimpressed I become with myself.
I spent a lot of years of my life growing in my view of myself. I spent a lot of years genuinely believing (and interacting with others) as if I was somehow better than the average person. Of course it wasn’t conscious, but it was always there. And to a certain extent, it still is. But one of the ways God’s grace has been active in my life this past year has been his allowing me to fail.
I’ve failed in my marriage. I’ve failed in my fathering. I’ve failed in my friendships. I’ve failed at keeping my word. I’ve failed in my sanctification. I’ve failed in my preaching and pastoring. I’ve failed in my walk with God. And not just once, either. I’m often impatient, frequently grouchy or melancholy, often motivated by the fear of people rather than the fear of God, and most days I’m more thrilled by ‘stuff’ than by communion with the Creator. And I’m a pastor.
Sometimes it’s better to say nothing, right? That’s what I’ve heard. My mom told me the same thing your mom told you: If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all. Paul gives us a little more developed version of that: ‘Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.’ (Eph 4.29)
And then there are the Proverbs:
When words are many, transgression is not lacking. (Prov. 10.19)
Or how about this gem:
Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. (Prov. 17.28)
You could also add pretty much the whole third chapter of James to the discussion as well. If you don’t have anything to say, just don’t say anything… right?
Having Nothing Good to Say Is Not Innocent
While it’s clear that the New Testament commands me to watch my words, it also tells me to redeem my words. There are many commands in the New Testament that — if I’m going to obey them — require me to actually have something to say.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col. 3.16; cf. Eph. 5.19)
Justice does not come quickly. The righteous answer is not always the obvious one. And, quite frankly, you’re not always the judge and you don’t always have the clarity you think you do. That’s why, biblically, every matter must be established by two or three witnesses and it must have a due process.
Tim Challies wrote what ended up being a pretty controversial post on patiently waiting for justice to be done in the matters relating to Sovereign Grace Ministries. He pointed out that we are to love, hope all things, wait until the matter is fully heard, and entrust justice to those authorities appointed by God. Even in the cases where there is alleged sexual abuse and alleged cover-ups.
For some, that was asking too much. Apparently, for a Christian seeking justice, we don’t need such waiting games. ‘The powerful are hiding and maneuvering to oppress the victims,’ we are told, ‘and therefore we ought to stand up for the victims.’
Rachel Held Evans, in her response to Challies, made it clear that the obligation of the church in seeking justice is the protection of the weak rather than the strong:
As Christians, our first impulse should be to protect and defend the powerless, not the powerful.
The Tenses of Psalm 63
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and your glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life…
… my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you (when I remember you in the future!) upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
This morning I just wanted to offer three follow-up thoughts to my reflections on anxiety. Thank you to all who commented and offered feedback!
1. A Blog Post Never Tells the Whole Story.
It’s easy, I’m sure, on the basis of one blog post, to assume that you know me as ‘that preacher’ who yells and tells you to get over your sin and doesn’t seem to deal with any genuine struggles of his own. But that’s just not the whole story.
A quick search of this blog for ‘depression’, for example, will land you on a couple posts where I’ve mentioned and reflected on my own battle with depression and some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. There are many similarities, I think, between depression and anxiety.
And if you were to talk to me about anxiety — the real, genuine, gripping, out-of-nowhere kind — in a personal, conversational context, I could tell you about loved ones very close to me with whom I’ve had to work through these issues. I’m well aware — from first-hand experience — of how paralyzing mental states like these can be.