“You fucked up. You’re not a fuck up”
This is what my friend said to me. I told my therapist. She asked me if I believed him. I don’t.
We’re defined in this world by what we do. If you kill someone one, you’re a killer. If you steal something, you’re a thief. If you fuck up, logic would dictate that you’re a fuck up.
… and that the church is full of fuck ups. Right? So why do I feel unworthy to go in the doors? Why is it that even though I have heard the line time and again that the church is “a hospital for sinners” that I still feel as if everyone else there has the sniffles and I have third degree burns?
“Why do you insist on kicking your own ass?” – That one was my spiritual director. He thinks I’m too Reformed. That made me want to hit him. You know, because I’m totally depraved.
I’ve preached grace, almost exclusively, for the last decade. You have to preach sin to preach grace. I have no problem with sin. I have no problem preaching grace to you. God loves you. God forgives you. God redeems you.
… but what about me? Does God love me? Intellectually, I can make a solid case that God might perhaps love me a little bit. But I’m not feeling it. I am unworthy. I am the worst kind of failure. Christ died for everyone but me.
I suppose that many pastors wrestle with this feeling, the disconnect between what we preach, what we so desperately long for others to believe, internalize and live into… and what we actually believe to be true of ourselves. What makes us different? Why is the bar so much higher for us?
I suppose part of the answer is societal. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “Wow, I’ve never heard a pastor swear before” or “I didn’t know pastors were allowed to drink”. Yep, we’re humans. But we can easily internalize that “we have to be better/holier” mentality to the point of setting ourselves up for failure and maybe even failing on purpose so that the expectations will go away. Maybe I’m just speaking for myself on the latter part. In any case and whatever the source, when you set an impossibly high standard for yourself, the results are inevitable. You will fail. And the failure will be devastating.
So, here I am. Intellectually knowing that I am loved both by God and by others. Seeing the reality of that love in so many ways. And yet totally unwilling to believe that I am actually loved. Unable to feel loved. Unable to feel lovable. It’s a dark place. It kinda sucks. My good reformed friends will tell me, “Derrick, we’re all unworthy of God’s love”. I don’t think I believe that anymore. I think every one is worthy of love by virtue of their being alive and human. Everyone has inherent worth and dignity because they are created in the image of God. Everyone is worthy of being valued, affirmed and loved.
Everyone except me.