“And everything I can’t remember
As f***** up as it all may seem to be I know it’s me.
I cannot blame this on my father
He did the best he could for me.
And it’s been awhile
Since I could hold my head up high
And it’s been awhile
Since I said I’m sorry.”
Those lyrics are from an alternative rock group called Staind. This particular song is “It’s Been a While.”
The words stand out to me because of the deep regret of the singer for the pain he’s caused. It’s as if he was watching himself do these hurtful things, but there was nothing he could do to stop it. And now he’s facing the consequences: isolation and self-loathing.
If we’re honest, we should all be able to relate. We’ve all done things that have torn us up inside, which we knew were wrong, but still did them anyway. Those people closest to us are the ones who get hurt. And in the end, the most painful part is that there is no one to blame except ourselves.
This song is fresh in my mind because I recently made poor choices and caused harm like this to my own church leadership group.
You see, I am in a mentoring relationship with the pastor of my church. We meet on a regular basis and he helps to make sure that my spiritual development as well as life development is on track.
Over the past year or so, I’ve not been a great apprentice or whatever you want to call it. I’ve not been a good Timothy, as he was to Paul.
Picture Anakin Skywalker as he was growing closer and closer to becoming the destined Darth Vader (It’s a silly analogy, I know, but bear with me).
He was the apprentice of Obi-Wan Kenobi. As Anakin’s skills grew stronger, and his ambitions began clouding his mind, he became disrespectful and out of control.
I see my actions as having the same kind of motivation as the young padawan. Thankfully, I caught myself before becoming the most evil fascist lord in the galaxy.
But it was close.
Okay, now I’m being dramatic. But the point is that I had been going around my mentor and ignoring the rich resources of life experience he had. I had started feeling bitter, which only fueled my desire to be free of the bonds of this relationship.
So I began making life-decisions without even talking to him. It’s not that he wanted to control my life, but I unwittingly made a statement to this man who had been like a father to me that his opinion didn’t matter to me.
It eventually lead to my building enmity on our leadership team against him. I slowly started convincing our other leadership team members that my mentor couldn’t be trusted. That he was making poor decisions. I gathered them to “my side”, so to speak.
There came a tension between my mentor and me. Almost every discussion would end with an argument or fight. Most of the time, it was because I was aggressive.
This whole thing has lasted for the past year. Keep in mind, I wasn’t self-aware enough to recognize what was going on. All I knew was that I was mad. None of these things were conscious decisions to defy him. I just sort of… accidentally defied him.
And now, for the first time, I’m seeing how poor of a mentee I had been.
We had a long, hard talk the other night. He expressed how hurt he had been, and at first, I resisted.
But I couldn’t ignore the effects for long.
Interpersonally, he and I had a broken relationship. Our team needed to rebuild unity. We had been less effective as a church in our community due to our disorganization.
And he didn’t hold these things in front of me as a source of guilt. He was honest, and then I was honest with myself.
So now, we have to do the hard work of regaining each other’s trust, and reshaping our team. I know we’re going to get through this, because we have the Holy Spirit on our side, after all. But it will be difficult.
Be a Better Timothy than I Have Been
If you are a leader on a team, consider how your actions are affecting everyone. Don’t be selfish like I was.
If you have a mentor, don’t treat him like Obi-Wan. Treat him like Paul, who deserves respect and honor… even if you disagree with him.
And don’t just do it for your mentor’s sake. The fact is that if we act like Timothy, in humility, patience, and love, then we are doing it for God. Our faith is that God (not our imperfect Paul-like leader) will bring about success in ministry.
But trust me, I know the risk it takes to put your lifework in the hands of someone who you’re angry at. Your mentor can literally block God from using you in significant ways if he himself makes bad decisions.
But at the end of the day, that is his stewardship. Not yours. If you are a Timothy, your stewardship is to support the team, allowing the Paul to do his job without extra obstacles from you. And one day, when you have your own team, when you are your own Paul, then you can take on that responsibility.
So be patient, like I haven’t been. Be humble, like I haven’t been. Be a team-player, like I haven’t been.
And trust God, like I haven’t been.
Also published on Medium.