PT4: Faith For Lay Guys_People and The Cancer of Disappointment
Updated: Jan 1
One of the most disappointing things that happens within a church is when one of its leaders plunges head-over-heals into the places where good men and women of the faith ought never should go.
And everybody knows it.
I have had the rare opportunity to be on both sides of that coin. I have been the lay guy in the pew who, having put all his faith into a spiritual leader (even emanating them as my own spiritual leverage), has become devastated. And I have been that leader who has plunged head-over-heals in the midst of the assembly and have experienced both severe personal disappointment and the disappointment of those whom I was leading.
It’s a dangerous place when our faith in Jesus stops at personality, looks, mentors, spiritual leaders, or anything else having to do with flesh and blood.
We all do it, don't we? There are those people who simply radiate God. With one glimmer of their eye we are swooped into a spiritual vortex that excites and ignites. They become gods to us. We furiously take notes when they speak, forward their sermons to friends, and tithe into their ministries. And, whiten in crisis, they are the first people we contact for prayer or advice.
It isn’t a surprise we get shattered when we find out they are just like us: broken people blessed by god’s unrelenting grace.
And isn't it funny that when that happens to somebody like that we are hit with a variety of thoughts from, "I'm so disappointed" to "Gosh, if that could happen to him it could happen to me!"
The positive side of "when leaders fall" is that the occasion provides a reality check to all involved. People realize just how wonderful God is for a mere human to be used so magnificently by him, warts and all. It provides a wondrous grace place and encourages us all that God is bigger, that he still forgives us when we do stupid things, and that his restoration is sure. They say, after all, when a broken branch is grafted into another one, the result is a branch that has strength previously unknown. Any humble saint can grow into a deeper faithfulness through the failings of a leader (including the leader himself).
But those of us who have been in churches where leaders have fallen know there are serious negative repercussions as well. Aside from the interpersonal relationships of sadness, dismay, and disappointment, when a faithful man or woman goes down it can also do a number on one’s own faith. The pendulum swings from, “If she fell from grace, what about me,” through "I'm so disappointed," to Gosh, if that could happen to him, what about me!," to the the cancerous “Christianity thing is a sham.”
At best, when faced with the fall of an esteemed leader or close friend, peoples’ screw ups provide a rare opportunity to examine our own hearts of clay and reposition the object of our faith away from the temporal and onto the eternal. Are we able to see beyond what we see? Is our God constant in the wind and the waves, in the trial and change, as we sing? Does our faith transcend the temporal and anchored in the timeless, or is it built on the sandy beaches of human fallibility? Jesus would call us to be anchored in his unseen (yet very secure) world rather than loosely moored to all we can see and rocked when that world begins to dissolved by wind, rain, and storms.
I recall the defining words of Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Jesus is looking for faith in us - not merely looking, but longing to see it. From his perspective faith is the key to everything. It is the spark plug for the world and the fire behind his relationship with us. He’s seeking in us a faith that transcends crises, doubt, and feelings and unabashedly adheres to the foolishness of what is NOT seen. When our faith continues to love, continues to grow, to continues to "faith: (as faith is a verb after all), despite all we see ... that makes him happy - as he recognizes it when he, amidst the disappointment of his dearest friends too, desperately clung to his Cross.
A faith like that will never be shaken.
Father, increase in us compassion to those who stumble, knowing that your faithfulness doesn't end there, but is anchored in a place far greater, the Kingdom of God, where we truly move and live and have our being. Amen.