It’s been about 3 months since my wife and I first joined the Sojourn family. While we are nothing but grateful to God for bringing us here, the first few weeks sort of felt like that moment right when the roller coaster takes its first plunge and you realize that lap bar could be a few notches tighter. Dinners, lunches, new people everywhere—all wonderful things, but a bit of a shock to the system for us. Luckily, we’ve found a new normal within the Sojourn community, and we are really enjoying this season. Personally, I can’t remember a time in my life when I’ve felt so loved and encouraged by a group of people, and I am truly thankful for that. But that’s where things start to get a little hairy for me.
I'm a classic people-pleaser. And on top of that, I’m a perfectionist. I fear rejection and failure more than anything. I’ve been this way ever since I can remember. I feel like I must perform at a high level in order to earn your love and approval, and if I don’t perform up to that high level, I'll think you hate me, and I’ll hate me too. My carnal desire is to hear, “Great job, man!” I’m ashamed to say that I even crave it. So the idea of somehow accepting God’s grace without having to do something to earn it is actually very difficult for me. I'm constantly, in my head, one mistake away from being a failure. I’ve sought help for this in the past and I will seek help for it in the future.
That said, during the first few weeks on staff I kept hearing this voice in my head saying, “You can’t do this. You’re going to fail.” I have no idea where it was coming from, but it taunted me constantly throughout the day. My instinctive reaction, of course, was to double-down and make sure all my bases were covered through and through, because Sunday is game day! From the moment I wake up in the morning to the moment I get home and crash on the couch, I, in my mind, need to be 100% on my game. My people-pleasing personality is inflamed on Sunday mornings because I want it be perfect so that I can feel valuable, so that I can know I’ve done my best.
One particular Sunday morning, I closed the gathering having forgotten a small part of the liturgy. There was a mildly awkward pause on stage. I was upset with myself, and I left feeling ashamed and annoyed. The voice in my head was screaming at me that afternoon. The following Monday morning, during our staff meeting, I confessed that this was weighing on me, that this idol of performance was strangling me. Brandon's response convicted me deeply. He said, “You are viewing church as an event, and you need to start looking at church as a family. You are going to fail, and that’s okay.” After taking some time to process, I was compelled to repent of this performance idol that had so quickly taken control of my thoughts and actions.
Many things go into preparing for Sunday morning, preparing to equip and send the church with a clearer understanding of who they are in Christ. All of that is great, but finding my own acceptance and love in the act of preparing is not okay. We call our Sunday mornings “Gatherings" for a reason— it’s a family gathering, and we're striving to love one another knowing that we all fail in some way. We come together to be reminded that there is nothing we could ever do to ever obtain the love and acceptance of God. He loves and accepts us freely as His sons and daughters only because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The church is not a service, it’s not a performance, and it’s not an event. It’s a family.