I don't know if I am totally ready for all of this. I don't really feel like I am exactly starting my first day in my best pastoral form. I don't feel like I am starting on day one with full energy, full focus, full strength, full ability. I wonder of I am like "California Chrome" who got kicked in the shins at the start of the Bellmont Classic horse race, and is about to come in fourth place (like this image above). In short, I feel like I am starting the game here not with my "A" game, but with my "B" game. Let me explain a bit further...
The past three months of our family's life has been a completely fatiguing experience. Since we left Colorado Springs at the beginning of April, we have moved no less than 20 times (hotels, friends homes, family homes, retirement homes, even a monastery). When joking about it, Star and have thought of calling this summer; "Our Gypsie Family Adventure of Fun." In the midst of our moves we have put our house on the market, driven two cars across the country, moved most of our family possessions to Camarillo, enrolled our daughter Haley in several "Art Camps", Star has interviewed for several jobs, I have taken a Doctoral class at Fuller, and I have spoken in several churches. And at the end of it all, I don't feel like I am running on "fresh legs" (to carry the sports metaphor further) on the first day of the race.
To illustrate the point further, I was recently speaking at a Presbyterian pastor's retirement home in Pasadena. I was offering a message on pastoral leadership. To illustrate a particular point, I began to talk about Fidel Castro (for whatever reason), and I was explaining his relationship to several pastors in America. Somewhere in the middle of the talk, my mind went blank. I said, "Fidel Castro comes from the country of……" and my mind was blank. Several unsettling and uncomfortable seconds passed. "Fidel Castro comes from the country of…" "Fidel Castro comes from the country of…." Finally, a 94 year old woman in the front row raised her hand and said, "CUBA, Fidel comes from Cuba!" "Yes, I said, thank you, Cuba." Now, when a 94 year old woman finishes your sentence in the middle of a talk in a retirement home, you have to come to terms with a basic fact; You may not be playing your "A" game.
And so my question for the morning is…
Can God Use My "B" Game?
Can God Use Your "B" Game?
Does God need us to be functioning at 100% of our ability level in order to use me/us effectively in ministry? Can God take what we have, what we are able to offer, at any given moment in our lives, and make something good, something beautiful, something useful, something transformative out of it.
Can God Use Your "B" Game?
This is a very important question for all humans, since none of us is perfect. None of us can really be fully "all there" at any given moment. We must come to terms with the fact that we won't always be able to play our "A" game. I recently spoke with a retired pastor who told me, "Graham, I don't preach any more because I am just not as sharp as I used to be, and I'd rather not preach at all, than to preach less than perfectly." A triathlete I know told me, "When I was just ten years younger, I was able to run much faster, I'm thinking of quitting races." A friend I know has recently been through a major stroke. He said to me, "It sometimes takes me hours to come up with thoughts that I was able to cultivate in minutes. Sometimes I feel like quitting." And so, I ask the question again;
Can God Use Your "B" Game?
One of my favorite texts in the Bible is the letter that Paul writes to the church in Corinth. In the midst of Paul's ministry, he must have been dealing with similar struggles to the ones I have described above. Paul must have felt that he was playing with his "B" game. Maybe he wasn't as able to access memorized Biblical texts as in the days of his youth. Maybe it was his "thorn in his side". Maybe he was just completely exhausted from his many years of ministry (being beaten, stoned, jailed, put in military stockades, having multiple ship-wrecks).
Into this miasma of deficiency, Paul wrote; "To keep from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly good revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, My Grace Is Sufficient For You, For my Power is Made Perfect in Weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." (1 Cor. 12:7-10).
What God is saying through Paul, I believe, is that God CAN USE OUR "B" GAME. More than this, God prefers it when we recognize our humanness, our shortcomings, our failings, our inabilities, our "B" game. God loves it when we recognize these "weaknesses" and we give them to God. It is only when we do this, then that God can fully use us. God makes our "B" game into an "A" game by the power of the cross.
So, to answer the question for the morning….
Can God Use Our "B" Game?
YES! And it would seem, that He prefers our "B" game.
So, stay tuned for my blogpost next week which will be written about President Barak Obama who is the President of….the President of…the President of…
Oh, it will come to me:-)
All For Now,