I’m pretty amazed at what God does. Especially when He does it in me….and through me.
For those who knew me as a young child, I might be remembered as the kid with the unusually large knees (I grew into them). For those who knew me when I was a young elementary aged kid, I might be remembered as the kid who wet himself on second base during a t-ball game. For those who knew me in middle school, I’d likely be remembered as “Farmer Varner”; the kid with the doofy “Shaggy-style” walk and the way-too-big duffle bag (I often forgot notebooks, textbooks, etc. at school, so my parents bought me a school bag that fits everything–trumpet case included–into one bag). For those who knew me in high school, I might be remembered as “What’s-his-name” until my junior year when I found utter joy onstage and actually graduated with a varsity letter in theater. (Take that, quarterback Mike Zurowski!) For those who knew me in college, I’d undoubtedly be remembered as the guy somehow dating the hottest girl on campus and actually getting away with it.
But as a 37-year-old student ministry pastor, I’ve got to admit that I’m often shushing a quiet voice whispering from the back of my mind. A young voice that brings me back to a place of insecurity. A place where I don’t really fit in anywhere, with anyone; a place where I’m a “little guy” tagging along, trying to keep up.
And I realize how unmanly that last paragraph makes me sound. But if this blog is nothing else, its honest.
I wonder how many other humans, or men, or husbands, or dads, or pastors have a similar voice. After all, when we’re not totally sure of who we are, the temptation is to be defined by what we do. I especially struggle with this when interacting with other men who aren’t in fulltime ministry. Men who are corporate and upward, men who are in a hands-on and rugged kind of work. Men who are successful and lucrative. Men who know the stats of their favorite players and are able to banter with other guys about who’s team is better.
I guess I’ve never felt quite like I fit in. There, I said it.
I know who I am from where I am now, but there’s another me that seems to be wandering around inside who is still trying to catch up with me. And I also know that therapists worldwide would have a hey-day with that last statement. There’ s a couch and a prescription somewhere with my name on it, to be sure.
The implications of this to my life now are (in no particular order):
a. I’m not great at parties. When surrounded by more confident people, I typically clam up; at least at first. Why? I’m not sure.
b. I’m tentative and cautious about emerging opportunities. A good friend of mine (and extremely talented chap) named Kent Julian contacted me years ago to be on a team of authors he was building to write a book together. I turned him down. He contacted me a year or so later with a similar request/invitation for the next book. Again, I turned him down; again for primarily financial reasons (there was an initial outset of money needed). Did I miss a golden opportunity? Maybe. But I can’t tell you how many times soon after both of his invitations that I asked myself, “Should I have not missed that one?”
c. The biggest changes I tend to make are to move the family couch from this side of the room to that one. And while I do rearrange furniture more often than most people, I also (more or less) like to keep things tidy and familiar. I like to have a plan, know the plan, and work the plan. When that translates into ministry, I may (not sure if its true) tend to move slower than people would like. I’m not dumb, I’m just moving at the pace that I process things. I’m actually at peace with this one. I’m totally okay with not being able to move at lightning fast speed like others seem to do.
d. I’m still tempted to seek to please people. I’ve gotten a lot better at this one as I’ve grown though. I recently turned down a premarital counseling and wedding request. Its not (just) that I didn’t want to do it, it was more that I didn’t really feel like my schedule would allow it. If the same request had come in to a younger Jerry Varner just starting out in ministry, I would have bent over backwards to do whatever necessary to please this couple, or anyone else asking for my time and attention. I simply put pleasing people really high on my priority list. And every so often, I find myself wrestling with that old monkey. One of the most freeing things I’ve learned is that if I dropped dead today, nobody in my life would.
Okay, so all that (and more) are on the psyche/intellect/emotional side of things. I’d be remiss to not turn my attention to the spiritual facts of who I am:
God’s child (John 1:12), a disciple of Jesus (John 15:15), justified (Romans 5:1), united with the Lord and one in spirit with Him (1 Cor. 6:17), bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20), a part of Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12:27), chosen by God (Ephesians 1:3-8), complete (Colossians 2:9-10), given direct access to the throne of God (Hebrews 4:14-16), free from condemnation (Romans 8:1-2), assured that God is working in my life (Romans 8:28), a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20), not fearful but powerful (2 Timothy 1:7), born of God and the evil one can’t even touch me (1 John 5:18)….to name just a few.
So, yeah. Like I said, I’m pretty amazed at what God does. Especially when He does it through me.