I was pastoring my first church and I was 25 years old. I was sitting in our student ministry room where we held our Monday night men’s prayer meeting. Before we started praying we were talking about another church in town that had lost its pastor. One of the men in our group jokingly said he was thinking about applying for the pastor position there because “it would be great to have a full-time salary for working one day a week”. It was just good natured bantering.
But something got triggered in my spirit that night. I remember word for word what flashed through my mind when those words were spoken. “I’ll show you. I’ll work harder than any pastor you’ve ever had. I’ll be here first and I’ll go home last. You will never accuse me of being lazy.” I set out to prove myself to those men, but in the process did damage to my soul and to my family.
I can look back and tell you now that there was a broken place in my soul that got triggered by that conversation that night. It revealed a “script” that runs deep in me.
It makes me think of the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:1 (NIV). Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
I am especially intrigued by those words “contaminate body and spirit”. There are some poisons that aren’t just toxic to my body, but also toxic to my soul.
Pete Scazzero accurately pinpoints not only what was true for him but also true for me and a lot of us who serve in ministry.
“The reality was that my discipleship and spirituality had not
touched a number of deep internal wounds and sin patterns…
especially the ones that emerged behind the closed doors of our home. I was stuck at an immature level of spiritual and emotional development.”
Some of the hard work of our sanctification is dealing with some of the broken places in our lives beneath the surface… beneath the waterline.
We all know people who have been believers for 40 years. They know the Bible well, have sat through thousands of sermons, tithe faithfully, serve consistently… all stuff above the water line. But they are unloving, crotchety, critical, cranky, dysfunctional, and mean-spirited. In my opinion, this reality exposes the fact that they have not been transformed beneath the waterline, at the level of their emotions and soul.
So, today I want to invite you to become a student of your own soul, and learn to pay attention to your life underneath the waterline.
I have now been able to identify some scripts that run deep in my life that have in many ways governed my life. This week and next week I want to share two of those scripts that I believe are common among pastors.
There are lots of scripts that people carry deep down in their soul.
- It could be a sense of shame that you carry that keeps you from taking risks in relationships.
- It could be that you grew up as a trophy child… and you got a ribbon just for showing up. And you carry the script of entitlement.
- It could be that you have father issues, and the lack of affection and affirmation from your father has deeply impacted you. And that script continues to manifest itself in your life and ministry.
You might carry the script of avoiding conflict. You grew up in a family that didn’t resolve conflict, you just swept it under the rug and pretended it wasn’t there. The result can be dysfunctional relationships and often no true resolution to problems.
But here is a script that runs deep in my soul… Work hard, be responsible, be successful and that’s how you find significance and that’s how you get loved!!
So, when that is the script you operate from, you put all of your focus on external behavior, above the waterline. Your only as good as your latest achievement. Acceptance and significance is found in what you DO.
Imbedded in this script is the false belief that “busy people are important people.
So, you are always in a hurry and you end up being compulsively busy. And you always have to be “PRODUCTIVE”.
Now, obviously, working hard is a good quality. And if you don’t work hard and you only want to do the bare minimum, you probably don’t belong in the pastorate.
But, there is a shadow side, and it actually becomes sin.
When your strong work ethic crosses the line into drivenness and workaholism, then it becomes toxic to your soul.
It has been very healthy for me to step back and ask “why am I so driven” and “what is behind my tendency toward workaholism”? Those are questions that take me beneath the waterline.
I believe that the antidote to this script in my life is to embrace space and slow. Slowing down helps me to be able to pay attention to my soul and my life beneath the waterline. And creating space and solitude helps me find life and satisfaction beyond my productivity. It helps me focus on “being” instead of just “doing”.
So, here is my question for you. What is a script that you have been carrying? You might need to set aside some time to prayerfully reflect on that question. Your script might come from your family of origin or a painful experience in your past. Or, it might simply come from your own wiring and DNA.
I would encourage you to write out the script. And then, find a verse or statement of God’s truth that helps you address that script.
Related Preaching Articles
By Larry Osborne on Apr 12, 2010
Larry Osborne explains "the Barnabas Factor" in successfully building church teams.
By Mary Wiley on Nov 17, 2017
"We live in a microwave meals, listen-to-podcasts-in-double-time world. We want more with less; work smarter not harder. However, the move forward or get left behind mentality of today is not a good transferrable principle for discipleship. Mostly because discipleship is all about people, and people can’t be boiled down to a series of tasks. People are messy and their needs aren’t linear."