My lovely wife Lindsay and I have only been living in Tustin, California for about six months now. We moved here from Arizona, where I had been living my whole life, and where Lindsay had been living for six years. We moved here because we immediately liked the Calvary team, and we felt like we could plug right into the mission/vision of the church.
I’m sitting here tonight with some alone time. Lindsay went to Disneyland with a friend for a cheer-up session on what was a pretty rough day for her… and it has given me some time to do some thinking. I hit mute on the TV, played some music, did some reading, and sat down to say this:
I love our California friends so much.
You’ve won us over so quickly. You have huge shoes to fill but it looks like you’ve got pretty big feet.
“I’m not sure if you didn’t have time to prepare for this camp or what…”
Those were the words of a volunteer camp counselor at a camp I was speaking at a while ago. She had come up with her church as a volunteer leader, and well, she didn’t like me. She had a list of criticisms for me to hear on day 3 or 4 of camp.
I thought it had been an amazing week. I felt like God was rocking some worlds.
She was right though… sort of. I was actually the replacement for a guy who had to cancel the day before this camp started. I hadn’t prepared. I’d been a pastor for years, and I had taught hundreds of times. I was (cue the music)… the CAMP SPEAKER!
But she wasn’t impressed.
I’ve been taking criticism my whole life.
In high school my only rebuttal was a fist. In college I was right and all the critics were wrong. Or so I thought. Working in hotels I was the boss and the critics weren’t.
And now, 8 years into church work, I’ve definitely handled a good amount of the c-word. But these days I embrace it. Here’s the difference: I’m confident in who I am now, and in what God is doing in my life.
Now I can usually discern the useful information from the fodder. I can usually see what is true and what is false with the criticism. Now I use the criticism as an opportunity to grow. Now… I can let go of it, and not allow it to cling to me for years. Now I am confident enough to be wrong, or at least have people in the world who think I am.
How do you handle criticism? How has your response changed over the years? How has it shaped you?
Lindsay and I spent last week with some family in Arizona. (I’m writing this just a couple hours after returning home, so I haven’t really even had a chance to process all of the things bouncing around in my head. So I’ll just start typing and see what comes out.)
First: a little bit of context— I have had a ridiculous transformation take place in my life over the past eight years or so. Anyone who knows me has heard something about my colorful past, and knows that along the way everything changed for me. I am in no way the same person I was when I was 21, and I can safely say that it has very little to do with the natural effects of maturing as you get older (hold the jokes for a sec). It was Jesus.
That’s my story. I had my heart and soul ripped out and replaced by Jesus. No other explanation makes sense. THAT explanation doesn’t even make sense, but it’s the only one I’ve got.
My story, my life and specifically my job as a pastor has become (in my mind) a huge pink elephant in the room when my family gets together. Aside from one set of cousins and their kids, nobody is on board with Jesus in my family. Nobody is hostile or rude. Everybody is polite… but sometimes it is just weird in the room. And I don’t get it…
It’s so hard to live this life, this new life, in the context of my family. Even Jesus had a hard time in this context, so I’m in good company I guess. The weird thing is that everyone has seen the change, but I have no idea what any of them think about it because nobody talks about it.
What I’m struggling with is this: It is so much easier to be a pastor with friends, students, or even with complete strangers for that matter, than it is to be one with my aunts, uncles, or cousins who have known me my whole life.
People who have known me for 5 months know me better than most of my family who has known me for 30 years.
There’s a lot more to this, but is what I’m saying making sense to anyone out there?