Wednesday, July 8, 2015
“A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” ― C.S. Lewis
We watched a movie last night called “Big Eyes” which is the true story of the artist who did all the paintings of children with very large eyes. The movie showed that the artist’s husband took all the credit for her work for years and made a huge name for himself based on work he did not and could not do. Besides making me look a lot better as a husband compared to that guy, it also reminded me of all the times I have taken credit for things that God did, arranged, or provided the opportunity for action. The old saying “pride goeth before a fall” is pretty accurate. Nothing good ever came from my wanting to be known for things I didn’t do. Sometimes, after a church service, people would tell me what a good sermon I had preached. I would swell up a little and soak in the compliments, but the thing is, I didn’t write the scripture, I didn’t live the life that Christ or the disciples did, I didn’t make up the words, and the idea for the sermon and its delivery were gifts from God that I didn’t acknowledge. It took quite a few years (sadly, sigh) before I realized that I was thinking about what a good job I did without realizing that I was just using gifts that God had given me. When a carpenter hammers a nail home, we shouldn’t thank the hammer, but that’s the only role I was playing—I was simply a tool in the hands of the master builder. I eventually began to understand my role in God’s work. Remember, I came to Christianity fairly late (in my forties) and didn’t have my first full-time appointment until I was 48 years old while other pastors had been serving for a quarter of a century by the time I began. Late to the party and acting like I had been the reason there was a party, it’s no wonder I was not liked or respected by my colleagues. Happily, there were some who knew what I was going through and patiently and calmly guided me to a better understanding of who I was and why I was serving God (thank you Sara Bainbridge and Wes Hilliard). There was a pastor at a large church in Springdale who would call me in, ask how things were going, and would quietly and gently make suggestions that would later change my life (thank you Bishop Max Whitfield). The point of this isn’t to call attention to my own failings (I have plenty, thank you) but to remind you that everyone can benefit from kind words and gentle guidance. All too often, pastors can confuse themselves and think that they are the message and not just the messenger. We have done a lot here, but it has been because we have simply offered our hands and voice to God and accepted whatever work He laid out for us. It has taken the help of many, many people here and in other countries for this mission to succeed. We haven’t done it, God has, we were just the hammers in the hands of the Master Carpenter, and very grateful to be able to offer ourselves to Him.