I went to an AA meeting recently with my wife who had to attend a session for a seminary class. But I loved how the meeting began. The leader got up and said, “My name is Brian and I am an alcoholic.” I thought, maybe church should begin like that.
It is just so real and reminds everyone in the room, especially the person saying it, how desperate they are. I long for the real. I am ready for the work of God's Spirit to truly transform me. Recently I wrote this in my journal:
Sometimes I wake up and I just feel empty and unhappy but I can't put my finger on exactly why I feel that way.
Sometimes I'm full of joy and I feel goofy and I dance around the house singing made up songs and annoy my family.
Sometimes they join in.
Sometimes I feel like a great youth worker.
Mostly though, I feel out of my depth, inadequate, and I have no clue how to reach students.
I feel love for my wife but I sometimes don't know how to show it.
Sometimes I feel so good after walks with my 17-year-old daughter and I feel as though God has spoken right through me directly to her.
But lately I don't have any idea what the hell to say.
Sometimes I say to the Lord that wherever He leads me I will follow, but then I don't want to get out of bed.
Sometimes I read the Bible and I am speechless and I cry. So lately I haven't been reading it much.
Sometimes I feel God's hand is upon me.
Sometimes I feel as though He wants nothing to do with me.
But then sometimes I remind myself of the truth that I am His beloved.
Sometimes I have the discipline to say no to myself and to be a godly man... sometimes.
As a youth pastor and a “professional Christian, “ the environment that I live and work in is just so darn inauthentic. If I said to people in my church what was really going on behind the surface, I’m afraid I would lose respect and especially influence. So I just hide. I just act like everything is OK and the words I preach, I act like I am actually living them.
I was talking the other day with a friend who is a pastor and I asked him how he has been, like, really, how he was. He answered me in such an open and vulnerable way. Honestly it shocked me. He said, “my marriage is a mess, I have no discipline, and I have no idea how to change anything in my life.” I thought, “dude, that’s a downer.” But then it hit me. I think this might be the first step to freedom and wholeness.
Just being real with where you are at. Just saying it, “I am struggling and I am not who I want to be.” This sets us free and this is what the church needs -leaders who lead from honest brokenness. Paul did it, Peter did it, all the greats did it. Jesus even did it.
I love the passage where Jesus, the God-man, the creator of the Universe, begs his closest friends to stay up and pray with him. He is being tortured in his thoughts by what is about to take place. That in just a few moments he is going to be arrested, tortured, and slowly killed. He feels alone and his closest friends don’t care enough to stay awake; to intercede for him.
Jesus invites them into his struggle, his worry, his anxiety, and his doubt. And they just don’t get it. They miss out on being there for Jesus. That’s a statement we don’t hear much, “being there for Jesus.” And I think I am like the sleeping disciples. I am just daily sleep walking, missing out on Jesus.
But hey, if Jesus was vulnerable, maybe I should be.
But I’ve got to go beyond telling people how screwed up I am. Many Christians are good at that. And it’s funny because even though it’s honest, it’s also shallow. Because there is no desire to move beyond it, it’s almost hopeless. It’s just a blanketed self-accepting statement. There’s no depth beyond the words. It’s defining. “I am screw-up and I will always be a screw-up.”
As youth workers, we all want God to change student’s lives. We want them to recklessly abandon everything and run to Jesus. And not just on mission trips, retreats, and at camps. We want them to experience Jesus in the daily of their lives. But for me, I have to want that for myself. This, at least for me, is easier said than done.
This past week I was feeling dry in my spirit, numb, and kind of dead inside. I knew what I would tell a student to do if they were in the same situation. So I decided to do it myself. I decided to take a retreat, just for the day. So I cancelled some appointments and just got away. I sat there with my journal and Bible and I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t journal… I just couldn’t focus. I had no attention span.
I felt restless…
Honestly, it was grueling. There was this battle inside. And I noticed something about myself in that moment: everything in me wanted to avoid God. So I did what any great minister of the gospel would do, I got out my laptop and went to ESPN.com for some light yet very important reading.
At the end of the day I accomplished very little. Accept for this one thing. At the end of the day I wrote a prayer in my journal asking God to invade me. That I was incapable of doing it, of bringing change. It’s funny, this week I have felt God answering that prayer little by little. I feel myself slowly waking up. I sense him inviting me into his mission to change people’s lives, including my own.
I love the passage in Colossians 2:6 – It says, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
Maybe that’s it! I remember running to the altar to accept Jesus on a Wednesday night when I was 13. I think maybe over the years I have just stopped running. I think that I am like my students, or maybe they are like me. They only run to Jesus on mission trips, at retreats, camps, and the occasional Wednesday night. God forgive me!
I remember when my dad was my age. I remember thinking how by the time I got to be his age I would have it all together. But I look at who I am , who I really am, and I feel just as lost and broken as I did back when I was 17. That Colossian passage I think is for us broken, lost, and desperate people. We are just as needy, just as poor as we were before we ran down that altar and gave our lives to Jesus. We still need him.
I need to remember this and live with a daily dependency on God. Knowing that I am fragile. Not believing the lie that I’ve got my life under control, that I’ve got it altogether. I think maybe I need to begin every day with these words. “My name is Brock Morgan, I am broken, and I desperately needing Jesus today.