Stepping into the restaurant I was terrified. No, I was distraught. No, I was filled with shame. Certainly everyone there could see the fraud I had admitted to be. The community that I was called to lead, to love, to share Jesus with should be able to see the joke I had let myself become. I couldn’t handle the pressure. I couldn’t handle the stress. I turned to escapes to get away from the overwhelmed feelings and nonstop thoughts of inadequacy.
This was how ministry came to a temporary end for me. This past year I had to have a real and honest look at my ability to handle all that I had taken on. I looked at so many other leaders and saw what they were able to handle. Sure, in the span of less than two years I found myself in a new city, in a new church, in a new denomination, in a new relationship, in a new marriage, in a new family, in a new place of being an adoptive dad, in a new…okay, it’s a lot. Still, I looked around and saw so much more that others were having to handle and of course, they were rocking it out.
For me, I wasn’t. I wasn’t handling what I had on my plate. I thought that I was because I was keeping most people happy most of the time, but I wasn’t. It wasn’t that I was failing the church or even completely failing my family. I was failing me. I was failing who I was called to be, doing what I needed to do to take care of me, and taking the time to actually do what I need to do, boo.
I can feel your eyes rolling at my attempt to tie in my lesson, “you do you boo.” It was a tough lesson for me to learn though. I faced a ton of guilt. Shame overwhelmed me. I looked around and saw winners and I seemed to be the only loser. Yeah, I know the overdramatic hyperbole that I’m projecting, but it was what I was feeling, constantly. I already had one organization, set of friends, people that I thought cared, reject me for reasons I could never understand. Here I was now, in a place where drinking alcohol isn’t allowed for pastors, and I was turning to it and not just drinking it, but drinking it to excess and putting my whole life at risk. I needed help, but I was so afraid because getting that help means I needed to admit that I was a failure.
I had to admit I was a failure and I hated it. I hated it because it would prove to others they were correct about their lies and misjudgments of me. It would prove that they, somehow, in their corrupt and insecure ways would feel they were right. It would put me in a place of feeling like I must be wrong, not just in this, but in everything. In every decision, in every attempt to lead, in every attempt to help, in everything I did I must have been wrong. I was wrong in this, so I must have been wrong in everything else, too.
So here I was in the restaurant to talk with leaders of the church I had failed to share my shame and I was met with… grace. No matter how cliche grace and the church might sound together, they actually, typically, especially for the broken, do not go together.
I was met with love. Real, genuine love. Love that wasn’t about what I could or couldn’t do. Love that was about me. Just, me.
I was met with value. Things I had done well were still celebrated. My heartbreaking decision to admit failure and step forward without being forced to wasn’t met with condemnation but pride in my strength? I have to put a question mark there because it didn’t feel like strength, but that’s what I was told.
I mean, this was a leader in the denomination that I had just joined, that was still getting to know me, that took me in when I was rejected by others. They didn’t see this with regret in me like I expected. They looked at me and still saw value.
My trauma still sought an explanation. Maybe it was just denominational leadership that wasn’t let down personally by my failure that would react this way? It certainly had to be different when I talked to the leaders of my church who I failed personally. When I walked into that next meeting, shaking inside myself, I didn’t really know what to expect.
I was met with…the same grace, love and pride. I was given value when I felt like I should have been shamed and discarded. I was still chosen even when I felt nothing redeemable in me. I was loved, and by the church, even though my fear of letting it down came true.
There is so much more to this part of my journey and more I can, should and will share. This is just the first lesson I took from this experience. I learned I needed to do what was best for me, and those that truly loved me would actually support me in that, because they didn’t just love me when I was good enough, they loved me. For those that didn’t love me in those times, and there were those I was surprised that didn’t, it didn’t show that my failure was just too much, but that their love just wasn’t fully there.
But, that’s okay, too. It’s okay because I don’t need to live my life to get the approval of everyone else. I don’t need everyone’s love to be worthy of any love. I don’t need to be able to make everyone smile in order for my life to be worth smiling about. I don’t need to keep up with everyone else’s expectations, no matter how right they are, in order to be worth keeping my own head up.
I need to do what’s best for me, even when it’s hard, even when the path ahead isn’t clear. I always want to have a clear path ahead of me in order to know how to best handle each and every situation so I don’t let others down, so I don’t fail them. This time I learned I just needed to do what was right, and in that moment what was right and what could be done was only doing what was right for me. If it was right for me, it was going to have to be enough for now, because that’s all I had.
That decision was met with more love than I expected. It was met with more pride than I expected. It was met with more approval than I expected. Not because it was what was best for everyone, but for everyone that truly valued me, they wanted what was best for me. It’s time to keep doing what’s best for me because for those that love me and for those that I love, what’s best for me will be what’s best for them. Better for me, means more of my whole me to love, to serve, to do what I’m called to do. Better for me actually means better for those I love.
The even better news? They aren’t happy that I’m doing good for me because it’s good for them. They’re happy because they actually love me. They want what’s good for me, to experience the best for me, for me.
Here’s the best news, at least for you. You can do you too, boo. You can do what’s best for you and know that it’s what is right because, you actually matter. You don’t just matter when you get things right. You don’t just matter when you do enough. You don’t just matter when you don’t let people down. You don’t just matter when you keep up with expectations. You matter. Yes, that’s a period at the end of that statement. There’s nothing more to add. You, my friend, my family, a stranger who is just a friend I haven’t met yet, you matter. All. The. Time.
So, I’ll do me. You may not agree. You may not like it. You may even shake your head in disgust. It’s okay, you don’t have to be on the journey with me. For those that see me do what I need to do and cheer me on, keep on the journey with me. I need your cheerleading. I’ll be in the stands for you too, ready for my heart to smile with yours as you do you, boo.