If you're like me, then you may often receive nudges of the Spirit from the seemingly unlikeliest places, like Twitter or Facebook. This happened for me last week when Bishop Ken Carter posted on Facebook something he had heard from one of my dearest friends and mentor, Dr. Steve Harper. Steve was leading the bishop and a gathering of pastors in group spiritual direction and said that a pastor's immediate vulnerabilities are pride and discouragement. Now, this isn't the first time that Steve Harper spoke something that resonated deep within my soul, and it surely won't be the last, but this idea has stuck with me.
Pride - a becoming or dignified sense of what is due to oneself or one's position or character; self-respect; self-esteem.
Discouragement - a state of feeling deprived of courage, hope, or confidence; disheartened; dispirited.
Each of these, I have come to realize since reading this last week, are indeed vulnerabilities I have been struggling with as a new pastor trying to find my way in ministry. And neither seminary nor the candidacy process could have fully prepared me for either of them.
Yesterday in my devotion time I received another nudge from the Spirit, this time from a source more likely than Facebook...the sermons of John Wesley.
"I only mention one more of the properties of this love: 'Love is not puffed up.' You cannot wrong one you love: Therefore, if you love God with all your heart, you cannot so wrong him as to rob him of his glory, by taking to yourself what is due to him only. You will own that all you are, and all you have, is his; that without him you can do nothing; that he is your light and your life, your strength and your all; and that you are nothing, yea, less than nothing, before him. And if you love your neighbor as yourself, you will not be able to prefer yourself before him. Nay, you will not be able to despise any one, any more than to hate him. As the wax melteth before the fire, so doth pride melt away before love. All haughtiness, whether of heart, speech, or behaviour, vanishes away where love prevails." (Sermon 139: On Love.)To be honest, I'm not entirely sure about where I am in the midst of all this, other than to acknowledge that pride is likely the bigger struggle of the two. I say that because if you consider the above definition for discouragement, I am not without courage, hope, or confidence as I seek to live into my calling. Though it is fair to say that I have at times felt disheartened.
Pride, on the other hand, is a different story.
I often think about my own work and responsibilities, "If I don't do this, it won't happen." or "I'm the only one who can do this." I am also prone to thinking things like this about the work of others, "I'm not sure I would have done it that way." Such thoughts, whether I care to admit it or not, reflect a pride-filled nature.
Let me put it this way. Have you heard the expression, "Work like it depends on you, pray like it depends on God."? Well, lately I have been placing far more emphasis on the former than the latter.
Wesley is so right, and I have said this often, all that I am and all that I have is God's.
Without God, I can do nothing.
God is my light and my life, my strength and my all.
I am nothing before God.
And I will add one more...I am called to know the love of God and make God's love known, reflecting His face in all that I say and I do.
"Love is patient, love is kind, it isn't jealous, it doesn't brag, it isn't arrogant, it isn't rude, it doesn't seek its own advantage, it isn't irritable, it doesn't keep a record of complaints, it isn't happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things. Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)May my love for God and neighbor rise up in my heart and melt my pride like wax before the fire. May God increase so I might decrease. May I trust in the Lord with all my heart and not rely on my own understanding. May I know the love of God in all my paths and allow Him to keep my ways straight. Amen.