I Wonder If They’ll Still Like Me
I consider myself a careful writer. I know I have countless ways to improve, but in general, I’m the type who writes, edits, rewrites, waits, then gives it one more read through before hitting publish. I care what people think about my writing. I want to be clear. I don’t want to be misread. This leads to a cautious anticipation around how my writing may affect someone.
I also consider myself a careful preacher. I’m more aware of my strengths and weaknesses in this field than ever before, so I spend considerable time every week carefully studying, praying, and considering my mandate to speak with dying lips a divine message of life. Over the last 20 years, this cautious approach to preaching has fostered the habit of fully manuscripting my messages. I rarely memorise my sermon, nor do I read it directly, but the process of writing allows the sort of careful consideration of what should be said, before being required to say it.
Recently, an interview for a podcast was published by a reasonably high profile figure in Christian circles. I was asked to speak to a variety of topics for about 45 minutes in a conversational style interview, all of which was recorded months in advance. I had a vague idea what those topics would be, but wasn’t given any notice as to the exact questions I would be asked. I didn’t give it much thought at the time, the interview seemed to go well, and those who organised it gave positive feedback following the recording. But a seed planted then began to bear fruit.
“I wonder if they’ll still like me?” Fears I thought as juvenile in others suddenly emerged in my own heart. “What if others have an image of me, one carefully curated by my own editing and slow production of content, that will now crumble as they hear me speak in candid, ‘off the cuff’, terms? Will they see through me? Am I a fraud?” This is called ‘imposter syndrome’, a feeling that everyone else is smarter or better than me and that this event will suddenly reveal that I’m out of my league. Part of me hopes no one listened to the episode, yet I am conflicted in the flesh by wanting to be affirmed. “What a wretched man I am.”
Here are three truths I’ve needed to preach to my own heart in this moment, and more than likely, will need to preach again in seasons yet to come.
Broken Jars Are Better
I don’t mean ‘broken’ in the trendy way people use that word now, like some interchangeable concept that smooths the edges off the word ‘sin’. I use broken as a description or likeness to being fragile. As uncomfortable as it is, as exposed as I may feel, it is good for me to embrace the fragile, unfinished blemishes of my character, after all, I’m not the one who is meant to be on show here.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:7 ESV)
My Identity Isn’t Found In What I Do
Sure, I’m a writer. And, yes, I’m a pastor. I’m also a husband, and a dad. But all these things I do ultimately don’t define my identity. I want to excel in all these areas, I want to steward well the gifts and opportunities God has given me, but my value is not dictated by my skill set, nor by my achievements or failures. God has already declared who I am in Christ; foreknown and chosen in him before the foundation of the earth, my merit and worth has been consumed and informed by Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6 ESV)
The Only Approval I Need Comes From Christ
I admit I am an approval seeker. My own self-doubts and fragile ego are a continual current that pulls at my heart and directs it toward the superficial praises of men. I battle the urge to check my website for reader statistics, and when I do, I feel my joy rise and fall with the graphs displayed there. It is precisely here that the gospel meets me in my wretched state, telling again in the soothing tones of grace, of a God who sees me, not as my sin condemns me as, but righteous and holy as one who has been hidden in Christ.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4 ESV)
So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:12-17 ESV)
So I wonder if they’ll still like me. Maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll see the faults I know are there. But even if they do, I pray they see Jesus clearer through it all. Maybe I’ll never be the writer, or pastor, or husband, or father I long to be, but I am a child of God—eternally loved in Christ and displayed as a trophy of grace. I hope you are encouraged in your own walk with Jesus through my writing, yet even if you never return here, my approval has already been secured, and if you too know Christ—here is the good news—so is yours.