Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Messing Up is Good

A new year causes us to think of new endeavors, or finishing the new ones we started last year. I have a list too. But I woke up wondering what causes us to stop our work. Often, when we stall out we can trace it back to a couple of practices that, when eliminated, could turn some of our failures into successes.

There are women who walk up to me at church and say, “God told me to pray about how to reach out to others. Then I thought about you, how you would be so good at it. So here—you take it and run with it.”

The number one reason for not finishing a good work is fear and its second cousin, comparisons. We first realize a need or a desire, but then mentally leaping to see it to completion, we get bogged down in the worry of trying to make it too successful too fast. Keeping our eyes on big ministry leaders may cause believers to feel inadequate because we’re comparing ourselves to someone whose path is not our path. Besides, a little bible study will prove to you that it’s in the smallness of your life that God works. Rom. 12 teaches us to be living sacrifices to God. V. 16 says, "Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble."

Then there’s the pit of the affirmation addict.

I found a quiet hybrid breed of dog I would like to own. It’s a small hypoallergenic dog that is content to sit quietly in my lap as I write. I found a breeder and then began talking to my dog loving friends about their pets. A pastor’s wife and friend named Jamie has a Maltese mix that adores her. When we all met one evening in a pedestrian village near our home, Jamie’s daughter was bringing her the family dog she had watched that night for Jamie. When the dog saw her, he began leaping straight up in the air with glee.
I said to Jamie, “That’s what I really want—affirmation.”
If our plans are rooted in affirmation instead of a desire to seek God, disappointment often follows. In the first place, most people we help in ministry never return to thank us. Remember when Jesus healed ten lepers? Only one returned to thank him. These men's lives were changed forever, but still they leaped away already selfishly planning what they would do with their newly endowed health, rather than asking God what he might ask of them. But Jesus didn't do it for the affirmation. He was one with the Father and acted according to what the boss told him to do.
There are writers who conference-hop seeking affirmation rather than the much needed critique. The same is true of women or men who daydream about leading a wildly successful ministry rather than developing a plan for a ministry that would bring benefits readily on a local scale. The problem is that when affirmation does not come pouring in, the idea is pitched as a pipedream. Fantasies are dangerous landscapes of the mind. They create mindsets that will derail a calling quickly.

Henry Ford once said, "Obstacles are those frightful things you can see when you take your eyes off your goal."
When Peter took his eyes off the Goal--Jesus--he sank!
So stay steady and maintain a ready arsenal of faith. You have another 365 days to get it wrong before you finally get it right. Getting it wrong is half the fun of experimenting with new endeavors.