Thursday, May 7, 2015

What we don't see

Recently I stumbled upon my notes for my standard "30-minute church presentation" that I did many dozens of times during my initial fundraising.  It brought back all kinds of nostalgia.

And a great deal of cringing.

I would never, ever give a presentation like that today.  It was hard to follow.  It contained awkward jokes and insider language.  It focused a ton on me and very little on the Lord Jesus.  It spoke of changed lives but did so with very little reference to the gospel - and when the gospel was mentioned, it wasn't clear what I meant by it.  And frankly, I sometimes wonder if I could even explain the gospel at that time if I had to!

What made me cringe the most, however, was how confident I'd been that my presentation rocked.  I'd spent many hours rehearsing it, crafting it, perfecting it...  or so I'd thought.  My critiques in the previous paragraph that are so very clear to me now were not at all clear to me then.  The problem was that I didn't see what I didn't see.  And I must humbly confess that in that regard, not much has changed.

I still don't see what I don't see.

Does that sound obvious?  Perhaps.  But here's the thing: because it's true, it is profoundly NOT obvious at the time.  We don't see what we don't see.  In short, we're spiritually blind.

How we respond to this blindness is utterly critical.  For we can choose to respond humbly, seeking the help of others who see us more clearly than we see ourselves.  God richly blesses that response (see James 4:6, Mt 23:12).  However, Jesus uses very strong language when describing those who disregard their blindness and respond instead with pride and hypocrisy.  Consider these excerpts from Christ's words in Matthew 23:

  • Woe to you, blind guides! (16)
  • You blind fools! (17)
  • You blind men! (19)
  • You blind guides! (24)
  • You blind Pharisee! (26)
In that same passage, Jesus says that these hypocrites will not enter the kingdom of heaven (13), that they are "sons of hell" (15), that they "have neglected weighty matters" (23), that they are "full of greed and self-indulgence" (25), that they are "full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness" (27), that they are "full of hypocrisy and lawlessness" (28), and much more.  (It gets much worse, actually.  Check it out.)  The point is that there is tremendous danger in being spiritually blind but not recognizing it!

Here's how pastor and author Paul Tripp puts it in Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands:
"The difference between physical and spiritual blindness is that the former is blatantly obvious while the latter often goes unnoticed. A physically blind person is immediately confronted with his condition. Often, a spiritually blind person not only fails to recognize his blindness, he is convinced that he has excellent vision. A fundamental part of being spiritually blind is that you are blind to your blindness."
That was the problem with my 30-minute church presentation.  I never questioned whether it was good.  I just assumed that it was.  More than that, I was convinced that it was.  And I was wrong.  I probably turned off a lot of godly people because of my foolish pride.

That was surely a problem with my 60-minute personal presentation, too.  I thought I was doing just fine, but I never asked others for input.  Honestly, I didn't really care what they thought.  I was contentedly (and blindly) plowing ahead, usually blaming failures on other people, lack of resources or even "God's timing".

No doubt the way I made phone calls was also flawed.  I got some feedback on that for the first few calls I made, but that was about it.  If someone had offered to help, I'd have assured them that I was just fine.  Thanks but no thanks.

I've read some of the emails I'd formerly sent.  (*cringe*)  I've reviewed former newsletters.  (*cringe again*)

And honestly, I'm not all that certain that the stuff I put out these days is all that much better.  But in recent years I've asked more and more people for feedback.  And, unsurprisingly, I've had more and more people respond positively to my messages.

Believe me, friends.  I know how heart-wrenching it is to ask for feedback.  You've poured yourself into these creative works and you're putting it out there for people to tear apart.  And they may in fact do that!  But take heart: because you are a sinner saved by the grace of Christ, your worth is not at all in your creative perfection.  In fact, you were deeply loved before you had any creativity whatsoever.  And you are deeply loved regardless of how well you present.  And you will be deeply loved as you pick up the pieces of your creation in order to rebuild it, humbly, into something far more beautiful than you'd ever imagined.

So let me ask you: do you think you're a good speaker, writer, presenter, or even fundraiser?  How do you know?

Could it be that you don't see what you don't see?
"Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." -Jesus, Matthew 23:12