Please chew me out, ouch, but thanks! Feedback, give me feedback, more feedback! There is not growth without seeing an area to grow in and I am so blind that I might look and look and see only minor, “cosmetic” flaws. I was counseling a pastor in Alaska who had struggled with low self esteem and, by his life had “preached” works his whole life. He had burned out and was depressed and his family was a mess. I told him, “Just admit to yourself and your congregation that you have been preaching lies your whole career and God will then heal you and your family.” He refused to examine himself and wound up int the state hospital and his family deteriorated further. More recently another pastor gave me the best wording of how hard it is to see ourselves or let God show us, especially through other’s feedback. He said, “Well, I suppose, I might have some minor blind spots! He then became enraged that I suggested the severe problems in his family might be connected to deeper issues in his life and that he needed to let God reprove him and guide him through other brothers in Christ. The problems can do nothing but deepen.
I cry out to God to search me and see my wicked ways and lead me in new paths. Too often I ask God for wisdom and I learn nothing because I do not pay attention. I am like a wave of the sea ‘ fluctuating in my commitment to see and “let God reprove, correct, purify, equip and use me. I must ask and then pay attention with no deadly “yes-buts”.
One big problem is that I don’t like his teaching tools. In the classic of our faith, “Hinds Feet On High Places” by Hannah Hurnard, she asks the shepherd to take her to the high places hoping the the guides he picks will be Joy and Peace. Instead he gives her Suffering and Sorrow. He tells her that they are strong and will see her through to the end of the journey.
His blessed word teaches me but all scripture reproves.
One of his best teachers are the words he speaks through our enemies. When David was fleeing Jerusalem from the advance of his rebel son Absalom, Shimei threw mud at him and called him names. One of Davids soldiers offered to remove Shimei’s head but David said, “The Lord told him to rebuke me, perhaps if I respond well the Lord will have mercy on me in this hour of trial. I was being attacked at the hospital a while back and God reminded me of Shimei. I pulled my mind away from the unbalanced accusations of the other doctor and asked the Lord what he was trying to say. The Lord told me, “I love what you are doing for the weakest of my people but the doctor is right, you do need better notes.” I came up with a template that allowed me to still talk and listen to the people and write good notes also.
Another of his, nasty, teaching tools is stressful life situations and challenges. There is an old “Christian” joke that one should not ask for patience because God will give you trials. It suggests that God charges too much for his paltry gifts. James one says that I should sit “down and consider all the benefits that will accrue from the current trials and , “count it all joy”. Because trials will produce patience and patience will produce all other spiritual gifts.
Frankly I am puzzled at the depth of antipathy pastors and parishioners have to brotherly feedback. They like the idea of Koinonia if it means Christians encouraging each other and praying for each other superficially, but Oh we must not confess our faults one to another. James 5:6 I costs me because, as the chief of sinners, I need brethren being real with each other and me to give me feedback and hold me accountable and accept me despite knowing my struggles. I can not find this type of support in the church because the devil has convinced us that we must not be real with each other. What if someone got up in church and asked for prayer and support in dealing with a lust problem? The church would be aghast, the women would worry that he was looking at them, that way and none of the men would dare admit that they struggled too. This, despite probably 40% of them having the same problem.
That is where blessed enemies come in. Our “friends’ won’t give us feedback but our enemies are glad to do so. What we need to do is to diffuse their attack by saying, “Thank you for caring enough to come to me directly! You could have just talked behind my back. I am trying to grow and your feedback will instruct and motivate me. You are right I do need to change in that area. Do you have any suggestions? What works for you? Could you give me feedback later if you see me making progress?
That is how when a man’s ways please the Lord, he make even his enemies to be at peace with him.