Bacon, Brokenness, and Psalm 51…Reflections on Leadership and Repentance

I had breakfast this morning with our son, Grant.  We are in a season right now of meeting for breakfast once a week, eating French Toast and bacon (there HAS to be bacon!) and talking over a passage of scripture and asking one another a few accountability questions.  Grant is 15 years old, we started doing this a few years ago and it has been one of the better investments I have ever made as a father.  (I am considering writing a book on parenting titled, “Bacon and the Art of Fatherhood”.)

Today we talked about Psalm 51.  We were both encouraged by David’s broken, contrite heart before the Lord.  We felt challenged by the way David owned his sin – not attempting to hide or blame someone else (like Adam and Eve…and you…and me).  Of course, it took David a long time to finally own up to his sin with Bathsheba and the bloody cover up, but when confronted by Nathan the prophet he finally surrendered his stubborn will and cried out to God for forgiveness.  It’s a compelling, sobering, hopeful story.

It is hopeful because we all visit this place from time to time, this place of brokenness and failure.  In my coaching ministry we refer to this as “D2” (a term Mike Breen uses in his book, “Building a Discipling Culture”).  D2 is that wall you hit that knocks you backwards.  D2 is that moment of realization that you are stuck and don’t know how to move forward.  D2 is the gut check that comes when you have to choose between holding onto your pride and self reliance or reaching out for God’s grace on your knees in humility and submission.  D2 is a test of courage. 

And for Grant and me, also a test of manhood.

I would like to share a journal entry from a few years ago – the very day that D2 knocked me to the pavement and bloodied my knees.  I share this for every leader and pastor that I know – you men and women are my heroes.  When D2 comes (and it always comes) DO NOT lose heart – follow God’s grace into repentance and trust!


Journal Entry March 26, 2012

I woke up this morning and my first thought was “cease striving”. My second thought was “apart from me you can do nothing”.

The truth is that I have so desperately wanted to begin functioning as a credible leader in a disciple making context that I have been pressing. Trusting my own instincts and grasping at the first opportunities that came along I jumped in with both feet.

Although I have learned much over the past 6 months – although God has been gracious to me – the reality is that I have been stuck in D2. I have found the process difficult, frustrating, painfully slow, and at times, bewildering. My first person of peace got fired from her job and left the area. The six people I invited into our first huddle are fading. One couple not only left our huddle
but our Life Group and church as well. The other two never really understood the leadership multiplication challenge because I did a poor job explaining it. And now that they have hit D2 they are back peddling and I seriously doubt if anyone will be left standing from the original group by summer other than Sandi and me.

And yet, even though I have not put forth the same effort God is bringing to me several persons of peace (in a leadership sense) from the Missionary Church and from our Lansing Network. But, this was not “my plan”. I wanted to lead these groups after I had successfully implemented the process in my immediate context. But now, if I am to lead these pastors and church planters, I will be leading them out of my weakness instead of my expertise. I will be joining them in learning what it means to live and lead like Jesus as I pick up the pieces, link arms with Sandi, and begin again. I will join the Learning Community as a fellow student this fall in Ft. Wayne. No pretense, no ego-preservation, no status…

The question I believe God is asking me right now is “Tom, are you OK with that?”

My answer? “Yes!” I find that whenever God asks me to humble myself in a public way he is always up to something good in my life, always preparing me for a season of fruitfulness. So, my decision is to walk through this process, however long it takes. I choose to humble myself for this season trusting that God will work in me – and eventually, through me. Does this feel good right now? No, it feels like I am dying to something inside of me that is scratching and clawing to stay alive. But I know this is God’s will, and I will just have to trust him with the process. 

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