I woke up this morning and let the dogs out. Then they get fed, sooner or later it is off to the the coffee shop to meet the city. I love this city. I have the privilege of being one of many pastors in this town. Thankfully I’m not one on a denominational track of changing churches every once in a while. (last I heard was, less than 4 years was the average stay for a pastor at a given church in America) I have been in this town for the past 13 years and I have fallen in love with it. The rhythm, the people, the university, the coffee shop; all of it.
My Shoelace is broken
As I was sitting at the table talking and visiting, the conversation turned to leaders, and positions, and attitudes, and I was suddenly aware that my left shoelace is broken and tied in a knot. I remember when I got up this morning and put my shoes on I was frustrated that my shoelace needed to be replaced, in the mean time, I needed to get to work so I tied it in a knot.
Pertinent to the conversation? I think so. I looked at the person across from me at the table and said, “My shoelace is tied in a knot because it is broken.” They looked at me funny and said, “What does that have to do with the conversation?” “Everything,” I replied. “Everything!”
I am not better than anybody else.
I am a leader and yet, my shoe lace is broken. There is also dirt on the bottom of my shoe, and I have owned this particular shirt for a couple of years now. While life has taken a wonderful turn for my wife and I over the past year, I am just a guy on a mission that will not be deterred, but I am not better than anybody else. I am not more perfect than anybody else. And while my “holiness” (look up the word) is growing daily, I am not more holy than anyone else that claims the name of Jesus and still lives here on Earth.
I am not so special that God chose me for this line of work, at this moment in time, I am just hungry and available. The shoelace is a reminder that I am no better than anyone else on this planet. My role is not my identity, it is my calling, it is my lifestyle. While I do understand that being a leader means to be held to a higher standard by God, my concern is that people also think this role should be put on a pedestal. Look UP to people that are further down the road than you are, but do not look TO them, they are just humans; look to God.
“Never trust a leader who doesn’t walk with a limp.”
I heard a friend of mine once say, “Never trust a leader who doesn’t walk with a limp.” There is a lot of truth in that statement. We all have weaknesses in our lives. (broken shoelaces) For some reason the church is full of people who think that being given the title, “Pastor,” or even, “elder,” means hiding their imperfections and weakness, having all the answers, living perfect, speaking in monotone, being better than everyone else, or even taking whatever spiritual beating someone wishes to pour out upon them. How many times have I been at the end of a haranguing by a church member and when I said, “No,” to the request, the response was, “And you call yourself a Pastor?”
Their broken shoelace is their need to be loved
Others in leadership think it means celebrating and almost reveling in their brokenness as a means of being compassionate and relating to the sinners. These people can’t define grace, the Gospel, or the call to transformation, because the people they are “ministering to” might not like or love them. Their broken shoelace is their need to be loved, and they are using this position to gain that. Their congregants might reject their invitation to the Cross, the community, or communion, and they can’t live with that.
Your pastor, regardless of how well they carry themselves, is just a human being. If they are honest, they struggle with everything you struggle with: feelings of inadequacy, fear of failure, addictions, finances, feeling beat up by the church, family management, loneliness, weight issues, health issues, stress possibly beyond your level, and the list goes on.
I’m not looking to garner pity. I’m not trying to get you to celebrate or patronize your leadership. I just want to help you to be aware that their shoelace is broke and they need your prayer, your help, and your friendship. They can afford a new shoelace; they just haven’t gotten to it yet due to all the “stuff” going on in regular life. So I guess, maybe I am inviting you to back off a little bit. Remember or be aware, they limp just like you do. If they don’t limp, don’t trust them.
I limp. My name is Joe, plain old Joe. I’m the guy that works beside you, the one you pass every day on the streets. I am a broken individual that Jesus rescued from a dark pit. He lifted me out of that slimy pit, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to my God, that many would see and fear and put their trust in HIM (not ME). I will never forget that.
I am not better than you or deeper than you. I don’t have more Jesus than you, and I am certainly not more “Elite” than you. I am saved by God, like you, or like you can be. Not because we are good, but because we need a savior. We all need to be clean from our sin. Jesus is that cleaner. He suffered the beating and wrath that we are due, so we would NEVER have to go through it.
Pray for my broken shoelace, please don’t ever think I will judge you for your broken shoelace, but I know where we can get our shoelaces fixed. For that reason, I was called, commissioned and empowered.