Being “Real”

Have you ever been completely spent? Worn out? Empty? I have. As a matter of fact, I woke up this morning feeling like a squeezed out tube of toothpaste.

Yesterday was a great day. I was blessed to be able to preach in the morning, the afternoon, and the evening. The only problem is that when you go all day, preaching your heart out, by the end of the day you’re exhausted. When I got up to drive the school bus, I looked at that tube of toothpaste and said, “That’s me.”

Over the next couple of hours a thought came to me: how can you tell when a tube of toothpaste is empty? Usually, it is flat and rolled up. The compacted tube shows evidence that all of its contents have been used – there’s nothing left. Then what about the hard, stand-up kind?

These new containers for toothpaste are deceiving. Unlike the old-fashioned tubes, they do not compact and show any visible signs of being empty. They always look full. Then it hit me – what hypocrites! Those new-fangled containers are just putting on a show and never give any hint of being used up. In other words, they’re not “real.”

I want to be “real.”

This is not a lesson on hypocrisy. This is not a lesson on being a whitewashed tomb full of dead men’s bones. This is about being “real.”

Too often, especially in ministry, we are forced to put on a façade, thereby making ourselves appear to be something we’re not. It’s not meant to be hypocritical. It is meant to spare others from the truth of our own inadequacies – our own emptiness. Sadly, because we don’t want to be a burden or a disappointment, we endure the emptiness…the loneliness…the fatigue. Being “real” is risky.

There are limits to how much dirty laundry a pastor can air in public without losing his ministry. There are limits to how vulnerable he can be around others. But may it never be said that we have to pretend to be something we are not. We are human. We have weaknesses. We have limitations. We can feel “used up.”

Fortunately, unlike a tube of toothpaste, we can be refilled. And for that matter, even a seemingly squeezed out tube always has just a little more to give. God gives us what we need, when we need it.  The important thing to remember is that we shouldn’t try to act full, when we are empty. When we do that, that is when we act in our own strength. Let us then admit our weakness and emptiness, and in turn our heavenly Father will refill us with what will bring Him glory. Who knows, maybe it is our emptiness He wants to use most.

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 KJV

Just keep it REAL.

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7 Comments

Filed under Christian Living, General Observations, legalism, Preaching

7 responses to “Being “Real”

  1. Thanks for being real! As a deacon in my church, I am concerned about our Pastor not taking time to get away and recharge. We do provide time for our Pastor and his family to get away. I recognize that as a minister, you can give and give until you have nothing left to give. Thanks for sharing your heart with the rest of us. May God keep you strong!

  2. Nicole

    I would think there is a two-fold danger to NOT being real. On one hand, you hide your frailties because you either don’t want others to know you have them because of fear of judgment, or you don’t want to be a stumbling block to another believer. Truly it must be incredibly hard to be a leader of any sort. But the riskiness, in my opinion, of being “real” and allowing others to see your faults and weaknesses may be the very thing that someone needs to see…so that they won’t focus too much on YOU, but on the One who works in you and through you…AND so that they can see that you can relate to their struggles as well. I think in many ways pastors have been loaded with too much expectation. Better to see that they are men just like us, subject to the same weaknesses and in desperate need of the same Savior. LIVING the gospel out and not just preaching it. Spent 8 years following a man that pretended to be so many things he was not, only to find out that he eventually started to believe the things that people thought about him and forgot that he too needed the gospel. Dangerous, slippery slope of pride. Better to be humble and aware and honest.

    Thanks for the encouragment.

  3. Excellent post and terrific advice! We do need to keep it real and admit that we have weaknesses, that our strength has a limit, and that we need Jesus to fill the gap. Your post reminded me of a song by Casting Crowns called “Stained Glass Masquerade.” This song points out how important it is to be real because if we are not then the lost and hurting who come into our churches may not seek the love and salvation they need. Here are the lyrics:

    Is there anyone that fails
    Is there anyone that falls
    Am I the only one in church today feelin’ so small

    Cause when I take a look around
    Everybody seems so strong
    I know they’ll soon discover
    That I don’t belong

    So I tuck it all away, like everything’s okay
    If I make them all believe it, maybe I’ll believe it too
    So with a painted grin, I play the heart again
    So everyone will see me the way that I see them

    Are we happy plastic people
    Under shiny plastic steeples
    With walls around our weakness
    And smiles to hide our pain
    But if the invitation’s open
    To every heart that has been broken
    Maybe then we close the curtain
    On our stained glass masquerade

    Thanks for keeping it real. May the Holy Spirit fill you up again. Peace, Linda

    • Wow! We have a shiny plastic steeple! Just got it 2 years ago.

      Whenever people say they’re “fine,” 94.5832% of the time they are lying (just made up the number cause it looked official).

  4. Great post, Pastor Baker.
    For what it’s worth, I’ve always figured you to be a pretty real guy. And I appreciate your openess and willingness to be honest with your readers.

    • That is truly a compliment.

      And by the way, I read your last post about your new health issue aloud in church last week. I was dealing with the issue of not blaming God, but believing God. I was preaching from Job, who is an inspiration to all who suffer without adequate explanations. Your words, in the midst of your trial, were an encouragement, also.

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