I’ve been reading lately about the confessions of Patrick and Augustine. They had struggles and shortcomings just like me and you, yet they had a profound impact for Christ on the world around them. Most of us would be honored to accomplish one tenth of what these men did. In our impotence and ineffectiveness, we feel the need to put on masks to hide the things we feel would tarnish our public image. The appearance of having it all together even supersedes the need to reach out when we need help, or seek counsel when we’re hurting. It’s strange since these men let it all hang out and changed the world anyway.
So, if these men can lay themselves bare, with great faith in God’s covering, why can’t we? Why do we, like Adam, hide our nakedness even from God? Maybe it’s because everyone’s doing it. Maybe if someone else would start, a chain reaction of transparency and vulnerability would occur, allowing God to mightily use these broken vessels that seem to only want to be carefully displayed. Since someone has to start, I think I will.
My upbringing was far from the traditional nuclear family. My folks divorced when I was still in grade school. My mom had to go to work to raise my brother and me, which left me alone to find all sorts of trouble to get into, including watching some very inappropriate things on television, ding dong ditching the neighbors, and being a general pest alongside my friends. I wasn’t great in school and secured my ranking as average in most of my classes. I wrestled in 7th, 8th, and 9th grade but never actually won a match.
In high school, I found a relationship with Christ in a major way. Unfortunately, I was a pharisee and would harshly judge people. I had a sarcastic side a mile wide and would bring some people to tears by getting a laugh at their expense. I dated the wrong girl and barely made it to graduation with my virginity intact. I learned some things about myself, during my teenage years, that would really hurt me later in life. I had charm, wit, and charisma and I knew how to use them to sail through certain things instead of patiently doing the hard work that prepares us for greater service.
I dropped out of college early because I already had a decent preaching ministry (thanks to charm and charisma) and I thought school was “for suckers”. I felt the impact of that decision when I failed my first credentialing exam. I burned bridges during those early ministry years by taking an “I’m going to say whatever I feel God is telling me to” attitude instead of taking the role of a servant.
When I transitioned from speaker to youth pastor, I spoke ill of my senior leader and got fired. It wasn’t the only time I was fired from a ministry position and had to learn many lessons the hard way. I’ve attempted to pioneer a couple of ministries that ended when I tucked my tail between my legs and gave up. I came up with grand excuses and logical reasons for quitting, but in the end it was because I just couldn’t hack it.
I’ve wasted away many hours with distractions, diversions, and a complete lack of focus. I’ve lied about my efforts, distorted results, and manipulated perceptions. I’ve stolen, cheated, and allowed things in my “ear-gates” and “eye-gates” that don’t belong. I am, in short, a complete mess.
But God’s grace has been all over me like a warm blanket. He’s used this big pile of broken, dysfunctional mess to make a difference in the lives of young and old. He’s lovingly humbled me and used me to bless others. He’s used me to build significant student ministries. He’s sent me overseas to be a blessing to pastors. He’s allowed me to lead large groups of young people in passionate prayer.
The Lord has placed wonderful mentors in my life to teach, guide, and disciple me. I’ve had the honor of “carrying the cloak” of men with powerful ministries and exceptional leadership skills. He’s given me a great love for reading and has taught me things that have changed my ministry paradigm; things that I’ve been able to pass on to others.
I’ve had the thrill of working alongside major movie actors and directors. I’ve been on the set of an Oscar winning production. I’ve worked behind the camera, in front of the camera, and on the air.
I’ve shared in churches and in media all over the country and in Ireland. I’m seriously amazed at the opportunities God has given this uneducated, distracted, mess of a man. Want to know what the greatest thing is though?
My family. When I look at my kids, I don’t see the loneliness and brokenness I felt as a child. They’re healthy and they love Jesus with all their heart! God made me a good dad and THAT is a miracle! I’m crazy about my wife of almost 18 years too! I know this is His hand because I couldn’t stick with anything for more than three months, twenty years ago.
God’s tenacious grace has rooted itself deep into my soul. I’m bound to it and it to me. I’m nothing without it so I’m immeasurably grateful for it. That’s my confession.