A Guide for Life and Leadership!
We all have let someone down. Parents, children, spouses, friends, leaders, and yes, pastors, all have failed at some point to meet the expectations of others.
I am no exception.
It’s 4:19 AM. I woke up because of a bad dream. I’m not knowledgeable enough to tell you why nightmares happen, but they do—even for old men.
In the dream, I was speaking to a crowd of people in an amphitheater of sorts. A wide variety of people were present—young, old, people of color, men, women, and children.
What I noticed first was the large number of people present whom I’d let down. It was a room full of leaders and parishioners who’d unfriended me both literally and figuratively at some point over the years. I saw their faces. Somehow, I saw their hearts. And in a moment of terrifying revelation, I realized the depth of their disappointment with me.
At first, when I looked around the room, I started to panic. Why are these people all here? What do they intend to do? I felt sick to my stomach as I panned the room and saw person after person and couple after couple who held no esteem or love for me.
When you’re a born people-pleaser (something I’ve wrestled with all my life), and you find yourself in a room full of people who are not pleased with you, trust me, it’s a nightmare.
Suddenly, in my dream, a voice yelled out, “What do you know?” I knew it was the Lord. He wasn’t angry with me. There wasn’t any judgment or condemnation in God’s tone. But the question was clear and direct, “What do you know?” It was at that moment that I awoke.
I tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t. So, I got up and started to pray: God, what do I know?
The answers came quickly:
- I know I am far from perfect as a man, husband, father, leader, and pastor.
- I know I have made enough mistakes as a recovering idiot to write a dozen books.
- I know I will make more mistakes.
- I know I am responsible for my choices.
- I know that I am still learning and still growing and still in process.
- I know that my past, present, and future failures never define who I am ultimately in Christ.
- I know that I am loved by the Father.
There are a few other things I know (probably), but in the context of my dream, these seven answered the Lord’s question to me, “What do you know?” These are the things I know that matter when faced with the existence of the many I’ve disappointed. The first four represent a painful reality of life and leadership. The other three embody hope. (Guess which ones matter most? Yep, the last three.)
If you lead anything, anywhere, you too have let others down. Keep in mind, because leadership at its core is influence—and everyone has influence—you are a leader. You might not fill a room with people you’ve disappointed, but there’s still a sizeable group of folks who walk the other way when they see you in the mall.
Can I suggest that the seven things I know when it comes to letting others down are seven things that you must know too? Please go back and reread the list. (Go ahead, I’ll wait.)
Are there any of the seven things listed there that are not true of you? And if they are true (and they are), then let those truths set you free. You aren’t perfect yet, but it’s okay, God’s still madly in love with you, and He’s never going to give up on you. He’s never expected perfection from you, so why are you so hard on yourself?
By the way, there’s one more thing I need to add to the list: I know that I need to let go of letting others down.
We will live stuck in the muck of our irrefutable humanity unless we learn to let go of what we cannot change. You and I cannot change the fact that we’ve let others down. It happens.
Now, I wish I could gather the hundreds (thousands?) together in one large room. Maybe it wouldn’t be a nightmare to tell them all at once, “I tried my best, yet I cannot undo what’s been done. Nevertheless, please forgive me as I am forgiven by Jesus. Remember, mercy is given to the merciful. You don’t have to trust or follow me, but please trust and follow the One who never gives up on people. He’s not done with me yet. Or you.”
It’s 5:10 AM. Perhaps I can go back to sleep now.
Note: I realize that most of you reading this blog have not unfriended me. I understand many still love and respect me. I’m fine. I’m not depressed or discouraged, and this post isn’t an attempt to get a bunch of you to tell me how wonderful you think I am! From time to time, however, it’s good to face and process the sometimes not-so-wonderful realities of my life. Thanks for understanding.