Growing up I was the very definition of a people-pleaser.
To the extent that in my late teens, I willingly agreed to working an extra 8 hours per week, long-term, with no extra pay - simply because my boss put the pressure on – and I wanted to please him.
Symon the people-pleaser. It could have been my middle-name.
Fast forward a couple of decades and three years into my role as a senior leader/pastor of an average-sized city church, I was on a collision course with either burn-out, resignation or most likely both.
I desperately wanted to be the lovable, personable, permission-giving pastor that everyone dreams of having… but I was failing miserably.
Because pleasing people and leading a heathy church are just not compatible.
Whenever I pleased one person, I inadvertently dis-pleased another, and pleasing God, sometimes meant that I would please no one.
But still I tried so hard – until my anxiety levels became so high that the ED doc thought I had had a heart-attack.
During that night in hospital God spoke very clearly through His word to my heart, and it has quite literally changed my life, and the way I lead.
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)
I realised it was not God’s yoke that was overwhelmingly heavy, it was the expectations, demands, opinions, suggestions, approval of everyone else. I had the freedom to choose what burden I would carry… Stress, or rest. We all have that choice.
Present day and I no longer live to please people… but like most people, I still like being liked.
As a pastor, not a day goes by where I’m not tempted to please someone, and not a day goes by where I am not faced with the internal struggle…
Do I agree to something because I don’t want to disappoint that person? Or do I follow my heart, my gut, the Holy Spirit's prompting and disappoint that person? Do I say what needs to be said, as graciously as I know how, while knowing that the person will probably feel hurt, upset, and unappreciated?
I realise now that pleasing everyone is not a luxury I have. People will place demands on me every day. Therefore, I will disappoint people every day. Some people won't like me anymore as a result (but hopefully not too many).
As pastors we are called to love people, to lead people, and to serve people, but we are not called to please people…
We are called to please God.
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)
We read the Bible with a filter of how we see God. To a degree, what we believe about the character of God influences our interpretation of the Scriptures.
It is all too easy to google a Bible verse and use it to validate a theological or doctrinal stance. It is also too easy to take a Bible verse out of context. I could easily mis-quote verses to argue a compelling case for slavery, polygamy, even human sacrifice for example.
We know that God does inflict the wicked with sickness as a judgement. We also know that God can use everything (including sickness) for His glory, but what I’m specifically addressing is: Does God give sickness to His children? Is it part of His perfect will to inflict His kids with infirmities in order to bless them?
I say a passionate NO, and I’ll explain why.
The Bobbit Worm. A cute and cuddly name for a cute and cuddly worm? Nope... just nope.
The Bobbit worm is
probably the most terrifying creature in existence. Sometimes I just have to wonder what was God thinking when He made animals that haunt my dreams and make me terrified of swimming in the open ocean (yet again). Honestly, the collective imaginations of all the Hollywood SPFX creature creators combined just cannot compete with what already exists in Nature. They should all just resign today.
The Bobbit Worm (Eunice Aphroditois) is an aquatic ambush predator with really, really ridiculously terrifying jaws (truly, I can't emphasis this enough). It buries itself in loose sediment and waits until an unsuspecting Nemo or Dory just happens to meander close by. While they enjoy a leisurely Sunday afternoon swim - Hell's jaws are waiting.
It gets crazier… The worm's body has poisonousness spines running down its entire length. It also pumps toxins into its prey (if those jaws weren't bad enough).
People in the know believe these things can grow to lengths of 3 meters. What size jaws would a 3 metre long Bobbit worm have? What prey could they catch and kill (in the most nightmarish way imaginable)?
Even if your feet remain firmly on dry ground, you are not safe from these terrors. A man could not believe his eyes when a 1.2 meter long Bobbit Worm emerged from behind a rock in his fish tank. The creature was hiding in the live coral that he purchased from a local pet store two years previously!
Oh, and lastly one more interesting piece of trivia. How did this worm get it's name? It was named after Lorena Bobbitt, the woman made famous for cutting off a particular part of her husband's anatomy back in 1993.
So boys, next time you go swimming (or visit the pet shop), remember to keep your legs crossed - or wear cast-iron board shorts.
(Featured image courtesy of by wikimedia)