Ok… so I tried to let it sit for a day before I blogged about it.
But frankly, yesterday was one of those days where when you’re done with teaching high school as a pastor, you want to crawl in a hole and not come out. Several students texted and talked and passed notes during my message. Some walked out before it even began. The room lacked life. The whole thing seemed like going through the motions and like the complete opposite of the 3 weeks before it. I could have just stopped mid-sentence and said, “My bad. Something is severely wrong and it just might be me. Let’s all go home and try again another day.” It felt that way during our 9am service. It felt that way again at 11. Was it a full moon? I dunno.
But I do know this feeling. In the grip of years I’ve been doing high school ministry, I’ve experienced it on more occasions than I care to really admit.
I remember one Wednesday night in Nor. Cal about 10 years ago. I came home after youth group when I felt like this… like I was a failure and that I should just quit. In an attempt to just drift away into brainless activity, I crashed on the couch and flipped on David Letterman. He was doing his monologue and it was bombing. I was feeling a bit of camaraderie with him in a twisted sort of way when all of a sudden he broke out of his monologue and turned to his sidekick Paul and asked, “Hey Paul, how many shows do we do a year?” Paul said, “I dunno, something like two or three hundred”. Letterman said, “That’s a lot right?”… Then in a moment of improv, Letterman walked straight for the camera and stuck his face in the screen. Then he said, “Hey people, with 200 shows, you can’t be good all the time” and went back to making fun of himself and his audience and how bad his jokes were bombing. It was beautiful. I laughed and said to myself, “If David Letterman can’t be good all the time with an entire staff of writers, surely I can bomb a few myself and keep going.” I remember laughing at God for speaking to me through David Letterman. I still think that’s funny.
For like the entire first year here at Journey our second service in high school had about 25% of the numbers from our first service… and all of them looked like they hated it. I mean really, I think they were all forced to be there and I wished they would just flip me off or tell me why they hated it so we could talk for real. Every day- I’m not joking -every Sunday I would walk into the bathroom between services and look myself in the mirror and say, “you can do it. you can do it. you can do it” and then pray and walk out with a smile on my face and thank students for coming and try to give them my best. It was brutally hard and coming on the heels of a great season of ministry, it was steadily trying to eat away at my confidence in my calling.
So this week, in honor of my own dysfunction and for anyone who can identify with it, I’m doing 5 posts on dealing with discouragement.
So here goes. If you feel like a loser and like you might want to quit any minute. Here’s what you might want to do.
CALL IT OUT. Discouragement is not from God. Correction might be. But kick you down and tell you “you suck”is not. It won’t change how you feel. But it will begin the process of recognizing that what you feel is not from God. Ponder Philippians 4:8 either.
WALK AWAY. For a long time after second service I’d quit every Sunday. I’d walk out the door and quit. Then I’d walk across the parking lot and get in my car and drive home. On Monday night, I’d re-hire myself again. Before you do or say anything you’re going to regret, give yourself some time to think and pray and de-emotionalize the moment. Time heals a lot of stuff… especially the emotional stuff.
PRAY. Spend sometime asking God to show you what is truth and what is lie in the voices and images that are banging around in your head. I’m positive there is real stuff to repair. But if you’re like me, then you’re your own worst critic. Ask God to separate the truth from the lie… even truth from the lies you own because you said them.