When you’re a 30 year old adjunct psychology professor with a Master degree in Counseling, depression is no foreign thing. Except for me, it was.
Trust me, I know the subject matter well. Not only do I know the symptoms, I’ve taught them to a number of students over the years.
Experiencing them is a different story.
Please know, I am not claiming to be dealing with depression or any particular mood disorder. That’s serious talk, and by no means do I wish to take away the seriousness and importance of those wrestling with depression. What I am claiming is that I have recently experienced a certain prevailing symptom of depression that, up until this point, had remained a subject matter I could teach from a book, but not from experience.
That symptom? Worthlessness.
When you are a people-pleaser like me, you hold yourself to a high standard of performance. You want to make sure everyone is happy, and in particular, you strive to ensure that everyone is happy with you. In just about every role I have found myself, I’ve relied heavily on my skills of humor, confidence, adaptability, and general intelligence to ensure those around me were satisfied in me, and in the particular role I was asked to perform for them. For the most part, I’ve found much success and satisfaction in my endeavors. I’ve mostly played it safe, or adapted quickly to any challenging situation (parenthood, anyone?).
Over time, I’ve imagined myself in many roles, and a good imagination is always a good way to prepare. Just about every form of imagining has brought joy and excitement. Husband, father, student, teacher, youth leader. These are all things I highly anticipated, and have equally (if not more-so) enjoyed the experiences themselves.
But Pastor? The idea was crippling. How could I possibly lead a church made mostly of folks with more life experience than me? How could God possibly expect me to be responsible for the spiritual well-being of a body of His believers? On top of that, I could never shoulder the administrative and executive responsibility that comes with the pastorate.
If any of you reading this are part of the church I pastor, then I’m sure that last paragraph was just the injection of confidence and hope you were looking for in your rookie leader, right? Well let me try again.
I am worthless. I can’t do this on my own. I have struggled countless times in recent history in the area of my worthiness in God’s calling. At the same time, I have never had a more formative couple of months like I have had these last few. “Doing it on my own” had become a normal way of life for me. Why not? If I want to make people satisfied in my performance, who better than to perform but me? I have made it 30 years with this mentality, surely it could continue. But this? Being a Pastor? That’s a whole different ballgame.
The thing is, I am not meant to be able to do things on my own. In fact, none of us are. For one, we are surrounded by a fellowship of believers, each gifted in his or her own way in order to strive for the common good of Gospel ministry (see 1 Corinthians 12). At North Lake, I could not have been surrounded by more gifted men and women. From being discipled by our previous Pastor, to working alongside the elder team, the leadership team, and the entire body, I am blessed.
Hebrews 12 says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
More importantly, though, I will continue to be worthless if I continue to lean upon my own strength in order to please others. Galatians 1:10 says “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Again in 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul writes “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Like many of my people-pleasing species, this is not something of which I am particularly proud. This is a shameful aspect of my personality, of which I’ve buried behind layers of sarcasm, attempts of intellect, and even apathy in some cases. This is a weakness. This is a thorn. But as Paul said, “I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses.”
Am I worthy? Absolutely not. But that’s okay…
As a post script to this post, you must know that I am not fishing for any sort of compliments, pity, or reassurance. Though this blog is admittedly self-serving, I am not writing it with the ulterior motive of social affirmation.