A few weeks ago I posted a blog that clearly made quite a big impact on people. It certainly received more hits and sparked more interaction than anything else I’ve posted for quite some time. So, here I am 2 weeks later and I thought it would be good to do a follow-up post to give an update on where I’m currently at, as well as to reflect upon some of the things that I wrote in that post.
Before I get going I just want to say thank you to everyone who connected with me off the back of the original post. There were plenty of comments left on the page, and the number of text messages, tweets, emails and conversations that I had in the following days was quite overwhelming. It is clear that, while many commended my ‘courage’ for posting what I did, others were understandably upset and concerned by what they read. To be honest I’m kind of in two minds about whether or not I should have posted what I did, how I did, or when I did! The last thing I wanted to do was upset anyone, either in my own church family, or friends from further afield. With hindsight I possibly could have waited a little longer and phrased some things differently, so if my words upset anyone I am sincerely sorry.
Similarly, I acknowledge that there was definitely an element of unhealthy ‘self-pity’ that came through in what I posted. In fact, ‘unhealthy’ is probably the wrong word. ‘Sinful’ is a more appropriate term! I was recently challenged by an article I read explaining that, while the pressures on those in ministry are no doubt considerable and in some ways unique, there are also many blessings that I enjoy purely because of the life that God has called me too. These include:
- Getting to eat breakfast and do school runs with my kids while most dads are already in work.
- Having more time to study Scripture and pray each week than most other Christians do.
- Enjoying more than my fair share of conferences and fellowship opportunities.
- Pastoring a church who I know genuinely love me and my family.
To write of wanting to quit in the way that I did was self-indulgent, disrespectful and ungrateful and I have repented of this attitude. If it came across that way to you, then I sincerely ask for your forgiveness.
Finally (for this first bit), and perhaps most importantly, what I have been most convicted about was that to speak so flippantly of throwing in the towel was to totally disregard the privilege of the call of God upon my life. Not everyone is called to preach the gospel and serve God’s people full-time, and I acknowledge that this ministry was not and is not my idea. It was God’s idea. God’s call. God’s purpose for my life. He gave me this work to do for His glory and so He’s the only One who can and will decide when my work is done. I thank God that I never actually did quit, but God knows that I really wanted to, which means that in that moment my heart was both disobedient and idolatrous (I was seeking to be Lord of my own life). Again, I have repented of these attitudes.
However, having said all that, I think that there were still some very positive outcomes from my post. Firstly, it was actually very good for me to get what I did off my chest. What I expressed was very extreme…but that’s because what I was experiencing was also very extreme. It’s very tempting as pastor, leader, author etc. to present a phoney public version of myself as a strong, resilient, heroic man of God. The truth is, I’m not. I’m weak, needy and utterly grace-dependant. For what it’s worth I’m glad that I was able to be honest about that. To tear the mask off and let people see the real me. I really do suck…and it’s OK to acknowledge that, so long as where it leads me is not self-indulgent depreciation, but Christ-centred celebration:
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12 v 9-10
Secondly, it is CRAZY how many ministers, pastors and full-time church workers got in touch with me to say that what I expressed was something that they either had experienced in the past or were currently going through, and to thank me for putting words to their feelings. If nothing else, I feel more compelled than ever to pray for other pastors and leaders and also to be quicker to ask others to pray for me. I humbly ask that you also would be in regular prayer for your pastors and leaders. God knows they need it!
Finally, I have been reminded again of just how genuinely loved me and my family are. People have gone above and beyond the call of duty to pour love on the Hankeys in recent weeks. Family, friends, brothers and sisters from my home church, my church planting network, my publishers, encouraging scriptures, sincere prayer, cups of coffee, offers of babysitters and holidays, even a timely hug…it has done my soul such good to know the love of God expressed in both word and deed and I am DEEPLY grateful for the people God has placed in my life, not least my incredible wife, Michelle.
So there we have it. As I reflect on recent turbulent days I do so with a mixture of humble repentance and gratitude for grace. I am persuaded that God is in the process of emptying me of myself so that He can fill me with more of Himself. This is both daunting and very exciting! Am I out of the woods emotionally? Spiritually? Physically? Dunno! But to be honest, I’m not sure that those are the right questions! Better questions would be: Am I secure in the grip of God’s grace? In the centre of God’s will? In the love of God’s people?
Yes I am!
So I’m crackin’ on to the glory of God!
The Lord upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
Psalm 145 v 14