Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Confessing Cynicism and Re-Learning Humble Confidence

Open Seattle
Two weeks ago, I had the joy of leading a seminar on Leading Up at Open Seattle (you can read my notes from the seminar here). I got plenty of positive feedback on the session and had great conversations with the other speakers and attenders. It was a day of learning, encouragement, growth, and blessing spent with the youth ministry tribe.

This past weekend, I attended the Canadian Youth Workers Convention in Vancouver with every expectation that it'd be another time of joy, learning, encouragement, and blessing.

Instead, I got a serious case of cynicism.

I wandered the Hyatt hotel from learning labs to the main sessions to exhibit halls with a lingering sense of disenchantment. Over and over, I left a session thinking of what the speaker could have done better, focusing on the flaws instead of the strengths. Moreover, I'd think, "I could have done that better." The typical Joel Mayward sense of hope and idealism--the overly-positive risk-taking this is gonna be awesome! Joel--wasn't present. Maybe it was due to lack of sleep, or spiritual warfare, or a lingering cold virus, or a combination of all three. I wanted to be more positive and encouraging, but the cynicism lingered like a fog, blurring my hopeful vision.

Mostly, I think it was from my own insecure pride.

Over the weekend, a number of youth ministry friends asked the question, "when are you leading a session?" or "what are you gonna be speaking on?" Knowing I wasn't leading any labs or sessions, I had to answer, "no one asked me."

ME. The one who had just hit a home run (or at least a double) two weeks earlier! Didn't they know who I was?!

You can see the arrogance and resentment, the insecurity and pride.

In Leading Up, I wrote the following about insecure pride:
Insecure pride comes from focusing on oneself, on struggling to maintain one’s own value and worth and identity without the strength of Christ. The insecurity comes from a personal anxiety, a self-doubt that comes across as a deflated or detached leadership. It is feeling unsure about oneself and what you offer as a leader to others. Connected with this insecurity is pride, an inner desire to make oneself and one's agenda heard in order to compensate for the insecurity. Pride often comes out externally through our mouths, while insecurity hides itself in the internal reaches of our hearts.
During a final session of CYWC, in the quiet of my own heart, the Spirit reminded me of the calling He's given me--to love the emerging generation in the name of Jesus and encourage, equip, and empower the emerging leadership in His church. It's my vocation, to be a pastor and leader and communicator and encourager. 

My self-worth then doesn't depend on how many books I've written or read or how many youth ministry conferences I speak at (though I do think God has given me gifts in communication, and I want to steward them well and use them to build others up in His kingdom). It matters how well I'm embracing my identity in Christ as His masterpiece.

When a leader’s identity is completely founded in who they are in Christ, they are completely defined in Him. Christianity is unique in that our identity and worth is a gift that is graced upon us, not an effort of our own existential exertion.

I re-learned something at CYWC: Insecure pride comes from attempting to form my identity and calling in myself and by my own efforts. Humble confidence comes from forming my identity and calling through Christ. It is allowing Christ to be King, to shape my desires and ambitions instead of trying to build them myself. 

It doesn't end this side of heaven. It's a journey, a process, an ongoing transformative movement from death to life.

Humble confidence trumps cynicism. Every time. It's just taking me awhile to learn it.

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