Our adult small groups are wrestling their way through the beatitudes. It’s an interesting study because so much of it hits me between the eyes.
I’ll tell you one thing I struggle with as a pastor. I fight to not become self-righteous.
Here’s what I mean. In my area of ministry expectations are a killer. Students and parents expect me to be and do and approve or disapprove of certain things and I in turn have certain expectations for what I expect out of my students and parents.
And that creates an inborn battle– because both of us are expecting something we are not: Perfect. And expecting perfect responses and actions from imperfect people leads to the ultimate buzz kill in any type of ministry: Disappointment.
Today Kristen and I went to go see the movie Juno. I loved this movie because of its honesty, frankness and utter lack of the traditional hollywood glamorization. What Juno does is capture the true heart of what it means to do life with one another. It shows real life comedy, drama, heartache, and redemption all in the search of love while wading through the stupid ideals we all encounter and discover to be false.
It’s about a girl who messes up and gets pregnant. In her innocense I could squint and see many of the young ladies I’ve worked with over the last decade making the same mistake and getting into the same predicament, wondering where to turn. She wasn’t dating the guy and she couldn’t even admit to herself that she liked him. From a “pastor’s perspective” I could feel myself giving this girl “the judgment look.” You know, the look of disappointment we glare at a person when they don’t live up to our expectations of purity, innocense, and all that other stuff. It’s not limited to pastors but I suppose we are famous for it. (Yes, we did learn how to do that in seminary. With no partying what else was there to do?)
I was ashamed of myself for thinking I would give this girl “the look.” (Even in my imagination!) Why? Because that’s not an appropriate response. That’s a self-righteous response. It’s me thinking that I am better than a 16 year old who gets pregnant. In actuality I am no better than her. I am just as guilty of 16 year old stupidity as she is. It’s something Jesus would have glared at me about. In fact, it was precicely that type of response that drove me so far from Christ as a high school student myself.
And now I felt myself wanting to do the same thing. Shame on me.
I want to be the type of person who is there for students like Juno. I want to be the person Juno calls when she’s done something stupid. (I love how the movie depicts her waiting for people to tell her it was a mistake, as if she didn’t know.) And I want to have the honest response that even though she’s done something really stupid that it’s going to be OK. I want to lead a ministry that lets people know that it doesn’t matter what you’ve done… that God is a God of mercy and grace and forgiveness and… and opportunity.
There are no mistakes with God. He doesn’t screw up. He doesn’t allow terrible things to happen for no reason. He doesn’t allow our 16 year old mistakes to turn into living breathing babies accidentally. He can turn every “bad thing” we’ve done into something good. He can make all things new. He can allow us to learn to discover love, forgiveness, and grace as we deal with the consequences of our stupid mistakes.
Jesus said— “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. Revelation 21:5-7