Some of the most profound lessons in life can only be discovered face down in a proverbial ditch. And that’s where I found myself about 25 years ago. My career was crumbling. My family life was devastated. Whatever influence I had was waning quickly. My dreams were being shattered. I was a complete failure privately, and was about to be exposed as one publicly. And for the moment, it was right where God wanted me to be.
There as life was crashing in all around me, I asked the Lord one of the most life-changing questions I could have asked, and He was gracious enough to give me an answer.
How did I wind up here?
The Lord showed me three things – three huge, blinding, colossal choices or habits that set me up for a trip to the ditch. The first I’ve already covered here – I allowed myself to get discouraged in one area of my life, and soon discouragement spread like spiritual cancer.
Here is the second. I read it on the 18th of the month – I know this because it was in Proverbs 18. But reading it was like reading a lab report on the condition of my heart.
A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire;
He rages against all wise judgment (Proverbs 18:1, NKJ)
At first blush it was obvious what that meant. I was a pastor. I was a public figure who made my living with words and relationships and eternal truths. I was “on” 24/7, or so I thought. So I gave every effort to play the part. I smiled pastor smiles. I prayed pastor prayers. I said pastor things. And when people asked me how I was doing, I gave pastor replies. “Good!” I would say, smiling.
I never told anybody otherwise.
I never shared what my biggest, most challenging obstacles were. I never shared the depths of what my dreams were, either for myself or for the church. I never told anybody I had gotten discouraged. I never asked for wisdom or help. I was a professional problem solver. I was supposed to be the solution to other people’s problems and the complete solution to my own… all the while presenting a front and leaving an impression that all was well.
The only way to pull all this off was to isolate myself. I even had a name for it – I called it “transparency to a point.” I would let people see and hear enough to believe I was being open and honest, but wouldn’t tell them too much.
Why? Pride, for sure, but that’s the third answer to the question… more on that later. Why isolate, then? Because I didn’t want people advising me to do what I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to ask for anybody else’s help to succeed. And I didn’t want to expose my life and work to somebody else’s opinion, wisdom, or direction.
In short, I isolated myself, and I was an idiot to do so. I would caution you against the same mistake. [click to continue…]