Thursday, February 12, 2009

Revealing our Doubt, Despair, Sadness and Fear

“Ministry is...a mutual experience.... [Jesus] wants Peter to feed his sheep and care for them, not as ‘professionals’ who know their clients’ problems and take care of them, but as vulnerable brothers and sisters who know and are known, who care and are cared for, who forgive and are being forgiven, who love and are being loved.... Laying down your life means making your own faith and doubt, hope and despair, joy and sadness, courage and fear available to others as ways of getting in touch with the Lord of life.”*
This is a difficult thing to do. Most of us don’t want others to see our doubts, despair, sadness and fear. We cover them up because we’re afraid they disqualify us from any role of leadership or ministry. But we are all fallen, broken sinners. The Bible portrays its heroes as flawed people, yet they were given mighty roles in God’s mission for his people. Surely God knew what he was doing.

I’ve been taking a course on a form of prayer that requires the recipients of prayer to be vulnerable and open about their inner lives. As I watch the leaders there I see them as people who are willing to be in either chair—pray-er or prayee. Two nights ago, in fact, one of the trainees was assigned to pray for one of the top leaders. What an example of servant-leadership! I also watch the pastors and leaders of my church living this way and admire them for it. They are far more approachable than those surrounded by an aura of perfection.

I’ve experienced the truth of this in my own life. When I’m willing to talk about my failings and my struggles, it frees others to do the same—and they do. Invariably, when I talk about my struggles with same-sex attraction, someone will come to me to confide that they too have this problem. Why? They know I’m safe because I’ve been there. They know I will have compassion and mercy instead of judgement and condemnation. How can we bear each others’ burdens if we never know what they are?
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10

*In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership by Henri J. M. Nouwen. Page 61.

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