Reflections of a Worship Pastor
Part III: Good Enough?
My previous post in this series addressed my struggle with pride as it relates to leading worship. And so, perhaps fittingly or perhaps ironically, in this post I’d like to consider the issue of insecurity. The all-too common voice inside of us that thrives off destructive comments like “you’re not good enough,” or “why aren’t you better than this by now,” or “really? That’s who you are and that’s what you do?”
I’ve heard it said that pride is hardly ever the real issue. It is usually merely a symptom of insecurity. We use pride as mask to cover our feelings of inadequacy. And this is true for me as well. Underneath my rather shallow issues of pride resides deeply rooted questions about myself: do I have value? Do I have worth? Am I any good at what I do? Do people really like me, and would they STILL like me if they really knew me?
And so to combat these fears and anxieties I put up facades that are designed to communicate self-confidence. I try to convince people I have it put together, that I know what I’m doing, that I’m not plagued by doubt and fear and shame and guilt. Or I hide behind what I do, and I pretend that what I “do” is the same as who I “am.” On Sundays I sure LOOK like I’m a spiritual person who has lots of good things to say, I sure LOOK like I’ve got it put together. And so I let you think that, because that’s better than you knowing the real me.
Ugly Purple Carpet
Confession: I love to watch shows on HGTV with my wife. One of the things I’ve learned from the likes of Carter Oosterhouse, David Bromstead and Vern Yip is that in older homes it’s not uncommon to rip out that ugly purple carpet only to find beautiful original hardwood flooring underneath. And the designer (as well as the homeowners) find themselves appalled at whoever thought it was a good idea to cover it up! However, on the flip side, it’s also true that sometimes they rip up that carpet and find mold, or termites, or even more of mess than they expected. And you almost wish they’d just lay back down the ugly purple carpet and walk away.
Usually, for me, my pride is like that ugly purple carpet. I put it there because I’m convinced it’s better than what was already there. Of course, even the worst-minded designer can see my ugly purple carpet for what it is: ugly. But I’m convinced, should I rip that away, what’s left underneath is even uglier… all my issues of insecurity, doubt and fear. I’m convinced I’m not good enough, I have too many faults and issues, and that I’ve masterfully convinced people all these years that I’m a reasonably decent person (when I know fair well that I’m not).
Marble, or Gold, or Something Else
What God is trying his divine hardest to teach me, though, is that underneath the ugly purple carpet, and underneath the termite-ridden molded flooring, is a foundation of the purest most beautiful marble flooring, laid long before I was born. Or perhaps, if you don’t like marble floors, imagine them gold (like the streets of the New Earth will be). If you don’t like gold, at this point I don’t care… you get the metaphor.
God is wanting me to begin to believe that what I think is at my core (insecurity, fear, etc) is NOT really at my core. That is NOT who I REALLY am. Those are things I have put there, those are things I have allowed the enemy to put there, to cover up the beautiful reality laying underneath: that I am a child of God. That I have been adopted in to God’s family, and stand in harmonious beauty alongside God’s other Son, Jesus.
When asked, Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” (Matt 22:34-40). But then he did this radically awesome thing, he said “the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Woah. Backup. So you’re saying that loving our neighbors like we love ourselves is “like” loving God? So much so, that you say it’s the second greatest thing we do as humans? And in order for us to love our neighbors like we love ourselves, doesn’t that imply that we, well, love OURSELVES?
There’s so much that can be said here, but I’ll defer my thoughts to the thoughts of one whom I have the utmost respect for. In “Naked Spirituality,” Brian McLaren shares a story about how he was out for a jog, listening to a sermon, and the preacher quoted Abraham Lincoln: “I desire to so conduct the affairs of this administration that if, at the end… I have lost every friend on earth, I shall have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside me.” And then Brian says this,
As I heard those words, it was as if the Spirit took them and pierced me to the core with them. Out of the deepest part of me, I felt a sob erupt. I had to stop running for a few minutes and found myself hunched over in the middle of the trail, feeling that in some mysterious way God was speaking to me and it was a matter of life and death that I listen. And the message that came to me was the realization that, deep down inside of me, I had an enemy, not a friend.
If a friend made a mistake, I would tell him it was okay, that nobody’s perfect. But when I made a mistake, I would constantly beat myself up and mercilessly take myself to task. If a friend was working too hard, I would tell him to relax, to take a day off and go fishing or play a round of golf. But down inside me was a cruel taskmaster who was never satisfied. If a friend had some weaknesses, I would be gracious and compassionate. But not so with myself. And so that day I felt the Spirit using a quote from Abraham Lincoln to tell me that if I was going to last, I actually needed to follow Jesus’ words about loving others as myself, which required me to first be a friend to myself.
Being Friends with Myself
I love this perspective. I love contrasting how I would act or think or talk towards a friend versus how I typically act, think or talk to myself. And Brian is right, usually it’s radically different. And in God’s eyes, that’s not cool. That’s not God’s intention for me… or for you.
And so when I naturally have doubts about myself, wondering if I’m any good or have any value, wondering if I deserve this awesome job I have or the amazing family I have, and when I’m struggling to believe that people might actually like the real me, I will now try and think of what I would tell my best friend: Dude, you’re crazy. Of COURSE you have value! You are amazing, gifted, talented, and they are lucky to have you just as much as you’re lucky to have them. I like you, the REAL you, and I can list off so many people who like you too that your head will spin. You are not only an incredible person, but you are a child of the King, and that means everything! Pull your head out of where you’ve buried it, hold it high, and believe in yourself as much as I believe in you!
Something tells me I’d struggle less with insecurity if I became friends with myself.