Sometimes, after I write a blog post I find people who get the wrong idea. Ever so, often I have to bring my staff at the Credo House together to explain something to them about myself. Then, they get worried. Many of the constituents of Credo House also get worried. My doctor even called me in to his office after reading a post last year. It is all very understandable to me. It is difficult for me to see the looks on people’s face . . . those looks of concern coupled with their inability to do anything about the situation is often followed by a distancing of themselves from me, or the ministry. Others come in with all the answers. They know exactly what is wrong with me; and, it is normally some sin which, somehow, they are able to discern.
I get it. I get why people sometimes think I am about to lose it.
“Staff,” I begin the meeting ever so often (especially when there are new people), “I want you to understand something about me and this ministry. I reserve the right to write on the blog some things that are very atypical and unconventional for someone like me who is the leader of a ministry such as this. You will often see things on the blog that I write about myself which make it look as if I am completely falling apart. . . .” I go on to explain what I am going to explain now.
I just got a message from someone who does not like the way I use this blog sometimes. Here is what he/she said:
“Okay Michael you’re entitled to be, “messed up”, as you say. Now what? What are you going to do? Your problem is highly psychological in nature. Are you willing to see a competent therapist? Are you willing to face that the issue may lie within? Or will you only lament? I want you well for the record, but using your ministry and blog for long laments and people patting you on the back telling you how brave you are for revealing your inner anguish isn’t going to resolve your ongoing sadness, depression or melancholy.“
My response, whether you agree or not, is important for people to hear:
[Unnamed Person], you may not believe this, but these laments are truly helpful to a great number of people, and have been for quite some time.
I think you probably ought to try to understand this in a way not dissimilar from the approach David or Jeremiah [most of what they wrote were laments about their pain made public] wrote. By the way, you sound (and believe me, I do understand) as if you would likely chastise them for what they wrote. If not, why [chastise me]?
So, too often we feel as if we have to protect our image my keeping things held down and secret from the public. I don’t think this is necessarily healthy.
I know dozens of church leaders and theologians who feel this exact same way. They contact me very often about their sadness. I encourage them to learn to expose their weaknesses as I am learning to do.
As hard as it may be for you to believe, there is no sense in which my laments are cries for sympathy. They are cries similar to so many who feel so alone in their pain and sadness, letting them know that “You are not alone.”
To assume that for some reason that I am not getting help is pretty surprising.
Perhaps, I am not the one who needs to keep my eyes off myself as much as another person might be?
However, I am convinced that it is important for me to communicate this very thing to my audience. That said, I don’t imagine that you are the only one who gets this impression.”
It is true that I write about my pain from the deepest part of who I am. The concern is intensified due to the fact that most people only express these things when all hope is gone and they are considering how they might leave this world. On the other hand, I am one who feels the need to write, particularly when I am down. This may give the impression that I may be much worse off than I actually am. I do this with the understanding that I may lose some readers. I understand that my ministry may materially suffer, when people are not comfortable supporting what they see to be as a “basket case”. However, I believe it is all worth the risk. Why? Because I know that most of the world, like me, wrestles with similar issues.
St. Francis of Assisi is such a hero of mine. He was known for his crass honesty about himself. He was continually concerned that he did not make up a false image of himself, due to the pressures of the world. Therefore, he was intentional about always being genuine. The story is told of when he had an open wound on his leg. It hurt him continually, especially as he walked for miles and his rough robe rubbed against it. His disciples kept telling him to put a bandage over it, but he refused. He thought that doing so would make him a fake. He did not want pain under his robe that was hidden from others. He finally conceded to put a bandage on his wound only on the condition that he could also have a bandage like it on the outside of his robe, as well. He was that concerned that his image be about the real him.
My ministry cannot be about keeping an image. My ministry cannot be about me looking strong. My ministry cannot be about trying to make an impression so that the mass majority of people will always feel comfortable. I want to help the broken-hearted and come to the aid of the hopeless. I am not saying that I don’t make mistakes here; and, I am not saying I know this is right. But I do reserve the right to show my scars, as David so often did. Moreover, I encourage all Christians (especially those in leadership positions, since they set the example) to unashamedly demonstrate their weaknesses. Yes, you will get looks. Yes, you will get letters. Yes, you will be misunderstood. Nevertheless, to those truly in need and are able to admit it, you will do so much to help them bind their broken hearts in a world that is so difficult. You can give hope to those who did not think they could hope again.
So, I will continue to write about my doubts. I will continue to write about my sadness. I will continue to expose my ugliness for all to see. That way, if Christ is ever seen through me, He is all you will see and He will get all the glory. I am too prone to pride to not have this difficult bit in my mouth.
C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger.
Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I’m a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]