This post is about me...not about anyone else, although I will express a few opinions about others so that you can better understand why this is about me. Also, I seriously doubt anyone I know who has dealt personally with their own public moral failure of this kind is reading this blog, so don't think that I'm thinking of you as I wrote this.
I heard the news today
That another soldier tumbled
A fragile warrior slipped and fell from grace
The vultures swooped to tear his heart
And pin him to the ground
And from the shadows someone took his place
I won't name names or link blogs, although some, if not many of you reading this will know who and what I'm thinking about as I write this. Another pastor, a pastor that many would call a "Christian celebrity", has resigned from his church by admitting to a sexual sin. I heard about it yesterday afternoon, just a few hours after the "story broke", and, as usual, it has left me with a sick feeling in my stomach...but this time, it feels a little sicker.
Today we talk amongst ourselves
We never bought his words
We say we've seen the madness in his eyes
Tomorrow he's forgotten as
We've scrubbed him from our hearts
And as he bleeds we slowly turn our eyes
To be honest, I haven't had much of a liking for this particular pastor. I have followed his blog and his church website for a few years, and have had some personal interaction with him via the internet, which may or may not give me a better idea of what he is really like. The church he has led is doing amazing things to connect people with God (mostly for the first time in their lives), and I really believe that God has been glorified through their mission. And, because of that, I have chosen to never bash him or his ministry. But, I have never felt right in my heart about his personality and the way he communicates his passion for reaching those who are far from God.
So, to be honest some more, one of my first thoughts when I read about his confession yesterday was, "I'm not all that surprised."
Then, I quickly was reminded, for several reasons, how disgusting and shameful a thought like that is.
Firstly, no matter how much or little I knew or liked about this pastor, I never had any real reason to doubt his authenticity or character. Yes, sexual sin is not something that just comes out of nowhere...it is, indeed, often a "slow fade", and one that always begins with a choice to pervert priorities. But, I've heard almost nothing but great things about this guy from others, including from several pastors who I do greatly respect. Just because he says some stuff that makes me cock my head to the side doesn't give me any real reason to be able to rightly judge his character as a third party over the internet. He is my brother, one whom God knows as a son, and I can and should love him without having to love everything about him.
I'll be the first in line to acknowledge that I say and do (publicly, privately, etc.) some pretty crappy things, on a fairly regular basis. And, I have no doubt that, when I say/do something that seems flawed, there are some who would have reason in their own mind to not be surprised by my words and actions. I'm thankful for grace, and forgiveness, and for the wisdom to realize that I'm as imperfect and as capable of the lowest of the low as the next guy.
But, what gets me the most...what really gives me that extra sick feeling in my stomach today and makes me stop and question my own priorities is the thought that, it could have been me....
But it could've been me
I could've been the one to lose my grip and fall
It could've been me
The one who's always standing tall
For unless you hold me tightly, Lord
And I can hold on too
Then tomorrow in the news
It could be me, it could be me...
I'm not saying that I'm contemplating having an affair, or that I've got a list of x rated websites hidden away somewhere. I am saying that, unless I'm constantly checking my priorities and motives and habits, seeking to love God in all I do, and allowing others to do the same for me, I'm really not much further from a big failure than if I were already committing it. I'm guessing that every decision that leads to the fall is a "big" screw up in hindsight...again, these failures don't happen over night, and are always preceded by wrong, "small" choices.
And in our hearts we fear the ones
Whose lives are like our own
Whose shadows dance like
Demons in our minds
We think to push them far away
We exercise our souls
We make them play the tune for all mankind
Perhaps, when we hear of stories like this one, the greatest danger for church pastors and leaders is to not realize that it really is not a far fetched thought that, it really could have been me. Anyone in ministry leadership who believes they are further than one quick decision away from falling hard is insane. If we were to have asked this pastor, just a few months ago, about his commitment to sexual morality, I'm guessing he would have had no idea he'd be in this spot now.
So, today, I'm asking myself...
Are there thoughts I'm thinking that are not of pure and holy things?
Are there words I'm speaking that are breaking down my fellowship with God and others?
Are there things I'm doing that are leading me away from God?
Are my motives about God, or about serving myself?
Are my passions for the things that make God happy?
More than just about anything else, the thing that keeps me wanting to know and love God more is the healthy fear of falling hard and crushing my God, my family, my friends, my ministry and my reputation in front of those who are far from God. I know, from past mistakes, what I'm capable of, and I know how much I can hurt other people (my wife, foremost) when I say or do something even sightly embarrassing and questionable.
And I've seen enough of our "Christian celebrities" and even a few personal friends publicly screw up huge to know that, even in my small realm of influence, my failure would have a huge impact on others.
I believe there is a place
Where (I) can run and hide
When (I) know that (I) can't stand
For one more day
And I believe You're waiting, Lord
To hold me very close
For You know without Your love
I'd lose my way
I pray for humility to acknowledge and confess my shortcomings. For wisdom to see the future consequences of my words and deeds. For discernment to pause and check the smallest of decisions with God's Word. The blessing of having others who love and care for me enough to ask the tough questions. For love and grace and forgiveness to help me get up and and dust off and keep moving forward.
The lyrics above (in italics) are from the song "It Could Have Been Me" by Phil Keaggy.