More on Mastery

So, having touched on the thought of “Mystery before Mastery but not without Mastery” you’ve probably already realized some of the downsides if you get this one backwards.

Part of the pressure we face as pastors is “to be an example to all” – which we probably think is biblical… well it sort of is and sort of isn’t. If we have a modern mindset which says performance, efficiency and results are primary, then we equate being an example to “having it all together” – i.e. we need to “master” this life of faith we lead, and be examples of how to “master” the Christian life.

But here’s what I think….. Paul encouraged Timothy to be an example, but qualified it by saying “let your growth be evident to all”. In other words, Timothy was to be an example of growth and following Jesus, not an example of mastery. This allows mystery to come before mastery and takes a whole lot of pressure off Timothy.

Pastors feel like their authority or “platform” or “right to speak into others’ lives” comes from their mastery. But here’s the kicker. We’re no more spiritual than anyone else (we all have the holy spirit living in us), we may be more or less mature than others in certain areas and we may be no less weaker or stronger than anyone else… But we have been called to be an example. In other words, I think God has a call on our lives to be put in a fish bowl, so people can watch us grow and follow Jesus and in doing so are encouraged, inspired and strengthened to growth in their own life.


Getting first things first

My mentor handed me a book by a fellow called Peter McHugh called A Voyage of Mercy. He boasts with tongue in cheek that he is one of the few pastors to break the thousand barrier twice. He lost some two-thirds of his congregation in a split having been accused as being a control freak. In his resulting breakdown he discovered some precious truths… like getting first things first.

Here’s an example that really speaks to me especially after just finishing A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren (more on that another day). Here it is:

Mystery before mastery but not without mastery.

He writes “In general, western Christians have been raised to rely on and believe in logic. We have been taught to think in categories and in neat linear fashion. We prefer to work with known principles and anything unknown is seen to be wrong or possibly dangerous. Consequently our preference is to master life. Mastery is also a way of controlling the way life unfolds. Mastery seeks satisfaction as its goal. It seeks to be safe, certain and comfortable believing that this is the pinnacle of life. In fact it is the place of death.

A performance based mindset will drive towards mastery. The fear and insecurity of performance seeks resolution and takes too much responsibility for the outcome.”

He contends -rightly so, that there is more mystery to this life of faith and following the Lord than anyone with a mastery-mindset can handle. According to Henry Miller “Until we accept the fact that life itself is founded in mystery, we shall learn nothing.”

So if we are to get first things first in this case. we must hold mystery above mastery, but not without mastery, so it’s both/and but the right way around…

I hope that makes sense… or is it all too mysterious?!

My wife is afraid of me

My wife and I were talking in bed, late last night. The conversation revolved around me being abrupt with her. I think she felt maybe I should be back on anti-depressants. I think I’m coping ok with my responsibilities which is a key indicator. I think she feels that if I am “abrupt” then I don’t respect her or care for her. I think maybe that I am a bit short and that my tolerance is fairly low, but it doesn’t mean I don’t care. I can understand how it can come across that way to her though.

I think it’s hard living with someone who finds it hard to accept your behaviour if you’re suffering from depression. It means you have to spend precious energy on masking, and moderating your behavior, and you can never really relax. Home is just another stage.

Today I received a text from her “I am afraid of u and ur aggression. In your depression I don’t know if u would harm me or the kids. I feel like a shel of a person in ur presence most of the time”. This isn’t a great situation obviously, and not conducive to recovery for either of us. I thought I’d just put it out there, in case it helps give you perspective.

On the solution side of things, I think it’s clear, that spouses of scrapheap pastors can really do with a lot of support. They also need to get their head around what depression means and how it affects their spouses, so they don’t take things personally.

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The Beached Whale

In my state, whales beach regularly. I’ve never been down to see them, but I’ve seen the footage and have a good imagination.

Today I feel like a beached whale (not fat, although I am putting on weight, probably from too much beer). The family’s gone to church leaving me to install some sliding wardrobe drawers in the kids rooms.

Beached whales are still awe-inspiring. So big, sleek, and full of potential. They really are powerful, graceful beings. But they’re immobilized and totally unable to fulfill their potential. Washed up. Wiped out. Beached.

That’s scrapheap pastors for you. In my experience and observation, the ones with the most potential are the ones who find their way to the scrap heap, usually because they are the most ambitious, visionary, hard working, gifted and dangerous. Too dangerous for an enemy who hates the church with a passion.

Night Sweats

Nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night bathed in sweat… and I mean bathed. I used to have this happen a couple of times a night for some time… to the point that I’d have to get up and dry off, and flip the bedspread back to dry that off and the sheets. I would wake up dehydrated.

They weren’t always nightmares though. It could be as innocuous as dreaming about playing tennis or disciplining a child or… anything really. But it produced an overwhelming adrenaline response and anxiety in the dream that it became life and death. I would wake up gasping… or my wife would wake me to help me out of it.

I avoided going to bed until I absolutely had to because I knew what awaited me. I knew I would wake in the morning exhausted.

I spoke to my psych about these dreams but she didn’t seem concerned and felt that as treatment continued, these would abate. She was right.

I haven’t had one of these dreams for maybe four weeks. As with any change or improvement, you never notice at the time, it’s only when you look back. I guess maybe we could coin a phrase “Looking back to look forward”s

Mushy Brain

I’ve mentioned before how my brain turned to mush as I burned out. Comprehension skills slowed down, decision making felt like walking on a planet with super-high gravity. My brain is slowly getting better but I still lose lots of things and have no idea where they are…. I found my gumboots in the middle of a field yesterday. I’d been missing them or a week….

I wish I could find my wallet and chainsaw chaps.

I’m kind of used to it now, so it’s not so bad. Interestingly, research has shown that if depression is not diagnosed early (in other words, persistent untreated depression) permanent brain damage can take place.

“By the year 2020, researchers expect depression to become second to heart disease as the leading cause of death worldwide. This is just one of the reasons they are working diligently to find a cure.

For those who suffer from depression, their world is a dark one. For many, that colorless life is unbearable as it persists year after year despite the variety of treatments that are used.

According to researchers, the secret to defeating depression starts with early intervention because the illness can, in fact, cause damage to the brain cells. The longer the depression continues, the longer the recovery time, and the longer it will take the brain cells to heal.”

That is scary, but I’m ok with the fact that my mind may never be as sharp as it used to be. At this stage of my life, I’d rather be strong than smart.