I watched my Twitter feed as the news was disseminated – Gary Kubiak was fired as the head coach of the Houston Texans National Football League team. The team had fallen off the cliff. They were on an 11-game losing streak in a 16 game season – that’s not good. The players seemed overmatched and unable to do what was needed to be done to make the team successful. Was it all the fault of the head coach? No, but it was his responsibility.
The head coach isn’t the one throwing the ball, catching the ball, kicking the ball or tackling the runners. The players have some culpability in this losing streak. But the head coach is the one called upon to make the team successful. In this case, one or two wins might have made the difference – they didn’t have to be perfect, just better. And as the head coach I have no doubt Gary Kubiak knew that. He saw this moment coming. At least he did if he had a clean mirror and some good light.
What I mean is that an understanding of who we are, what flaws we have and what strengths we have, should be seeable. They may not be obvious but they should be able to be seen. What it takes is a clean mirror and some good light.
Think about how you can look at your own appearance and gauge your health and strength by looking in the mirror. If the mirror is dirty the picture you get won’t be true. You may see flaws where none exist. You may not see beauty that does exist. And vice-versa. The same is true about the lighting. Good light offers a truer picture. Bad lighting may cause me to assume all is good when there are problems to be addressed.
Serving as a pastor for the last 17 years has been a rare privilege and honor. And I expect to continue on for another 17 or so (at least in full-time officially appointed ministry). I have also found that serving as pastor is weighty and is a test of faith in many ways. As a pastor I tend to carry the hope of other people’s spiritual growth. I long to see the church – the bride of Jesus Christ – grow in life and love. I struggle with the reality of other people’s expectations – some reasonable, others not so much. I also struggle with my own sense of failure and, at times, misguided pursuit of tangible success. I realize that self-examination is essential for determining a way forward. And it seems to me it is a different kind of process than when I worked as an accountant.
I say all that to say this – the sabbatical I will take beginning January 1, 2014 is all about making sure I have a clean mirror and good light. This is a time when God has called me to step back from the daily work of pastoring – to move things out of the way – and look in the mirror. This will be a time of deep spiritual introspection and time dedicated to knowing and listening to God – shining good light on my heart and soul and mind. I want to have an honest assessment of who I am. I want to know my flaws in honest ways so that I can faithfully allow the strength of God to be made known in my weakness. I also want to know what God sees as my strength and what that means for living into this next 17 years of ministry.
In short, I want to be certain I am benefitting the Kingdom of God in positive ways and leading the people of God in helpful ways. For me this means taking intentional time. I covet your prayers. A clean mirror and good light can show many things. How I address those things – both positive and negative – will impact the work I do. I expect (and have been told by God through another person) that this time will be a struggle. At the moment I do not know what that means, but I believe it will be for my good and the good of God’s Kingdom. At least I pray that will be the case.
Next week I will most likely post my final blog for this year. Whether or not I pick this up again on the other side of my sabbatical remains to be seen.
Holy high-five to you,