I blew it last night. We were all sitting around the dinner table. My daughter was home from college, and we were enjoying a meal for the first time in several weeks since she left. Part of what we do as a family is kind of make gentle fun of each other- nothing mean-spirited, just playful- those things that I think in a houseful of girls helps them over time learn to not be hyper-sensitive.
But, it turns out I was the one who was hyper-sensitive. For whatever reason, last night I had this preconceived notion that, at this dinner, I was entitled to some kind of reverence as “Dad.” And, so, when they started making gentle fun of me, I felt my blood boil. I could sit here and chalk it up as their disrespect, as their failure to recognize my biblically-ordained role of authority in my home. But, the fact is, I was a prideful jerk. When I reached my boiling point, I got mad, slammed my glass down, and stalked out of the room, griping about lack of respect.
As I went into the other room and turned on the football game, seething, the Holy Spirit convicted me almost immediately. My wife came in soon thereafter, and gently, kindly, provided some well-needed accountability. I asked her forgiveness, then went in and sought my kids’ forgiveness, as well. They were gracious to forgive, and the rest of the night was fun.
This morning, my pastor preached on our verse for this week, Ephesians 2: 8 & 9- reminding me, once again, that I have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and that the faith that I have been given to believe is, in itself, a gift from Him. There is nothing good in me to possibly accept that gift; God needs to give me the faith first, so I can trust Him. This was blatantly apparent to me last night, as I stared down the barrel of my own depravity.
Week after week you may read this blog, and you may wonder what kind of a guy I am. We all participate in some degree of “image management,” I suppose. We all want everyone else to think we’re someone better than we actually are. At the same time, our culture is so narcissistic, so out there, so “look at me and what I’m doing” that there’s also a tendency to “overshare,” to give too much of who we are in some desperate attempt to be affirmed by someone else. Like David Brooks has said, “Irreverent” has become a compliment; it hasn’t always been that way. There’s a fine line between authenticity and perverse narcissism.
That being said, when you read this blog, I want to make sure you understand the spirit in which I pray I’ll always write. When I’m sharing something God is teaching me with you, it’s because God is teaching me. Because I need it. In the spirit, as my friend Steve Rumpf described, of one beggar trying to show another beggar where to find bread.
The fact is that, if you see anything helpful in anything you read here, or anything you see in me, it is a gift from Christ and a powerful work of the Holy Spirit through a fallible, broken man. So many people do this parenting and leading thing better than I; you should find them and learn what they do, as well.
The scary thing to me in the wake of all these pastors resigning because of their link to the Ashley Madison website isn’t that they could be led into such sin, but the realization of how easily any of us can be led into it, including me. That kind of thing frightens me to death, because I know how frail I am, how pernicious pride is and how dead we all are in our sin, as the beginning of Ephesians 2 tells us.
We are desperately, desperately in need of grace, and the only hope any of us have is in Jesus. The minute we start thinking it’s in our money, or our looks, or our intelligence, or our relationships, or anything else about us, our goose is cooked. The only way I know to avoid it, to parent well, to be a good spouse, or to live is by day-to-day, minute-by-minute falling on faith in the grace that Jesus offers, of preaching the gospel to yourself every day, of saying, “it’s not me, it’s Jesus” until your heart can rest in it. Even then, you’ll screw it up, like I did last night, only to be reminded again that God is great and His mercy pursues us doggedly.
I write every week in faith, knowing that it’s an act of worship, and praying that someone is encouraged. But, I want you to know who I really am for three reasons. First, to give God glory for His saving work in my life. Second, so that if you ever are encouraged by anything you read here, you’ll praise the Message Giver, rather than the messenger. Second, that you’ll realize that if I can do or say the things I write about here, anyone can. Because we are all saved by the same grace, through the same grace, by the same blessed Savior.