By Cedric Lundy
Self-sabotage is the way an individual, through their individual beliefs, self-esteem, self-confidence, and permission from their past, keeps themselves within their self-chosen—and surprisingly comfortable—boundaries.
This past Sunday, as a part of our Interwoven series, I shared my own experience of realizing that I have a pattern of sabotaging myself in certain aspects of my life. I gave some examples from my youth of sabotaging even the possibility of dating, and from trying out for the basketball team. More currently I shared how identifying myself as a youth pastor had prevented me from even considering, much less pursuing, how else I could be used in ministry.
For those of you who were in attendance or have listened to the podcast hopefully it resonated with you and you are able to carve out some time this week to contemplate how and in what areas of your life you are your own worst enemy to achieving your goals and dreams. That being said there is one area I’d like to delve into deeper than I did on stage. Specifically two of the four questions I posed in relation to being a self-saboteur. Have your ‘yea buts’ become the primary obstacle to the life of transformation and renewal God is attempting to orchestrate in your life? How many of us are horrified that being made into a new creation in Christ, means a new set of expectations and new and higher levels of required performance?
I grew up in a Free Methodist church. The joke about Methodists is that they’re "all about the methods." More specifically, Free Methodists are all about living a disciplined lifestyle characterized by strict observance of moral codes and practice of Christian disciplines, most particularly Bible reading and prayer. That is one of my major starting points in understanding how to have a vibrant relationship with Jesus. Not to say that those two practices are somehow invalid, but those two practices have, over the years, become the “yea but” preventing me at times from fully engaging Christ for the purpose of continued life transformation and renewal. Those practices have, at times, caused me to assess my own personal spiritual health based solely on the frequency at which I practice them instead of assessing myself based upon the evidence of the fruit Paul mentions in Galatians 5.22-24 (love joy peace patience kindness goodness faithfulness gentleness and self-control).
All that to say, at times, I struggle to feel like I’ve met my perceived expectations of required performance, especially since becoming a full-time vocational pastor. If I perceive I’m not meeting those standards I become paranoid God is going to distance himself from me, and before I know it I start to move away from him internally before he can.
For some of you, your ‘yea but’ is your doubts. I imagine there is an event or circumstance that has become your current starting point for life with and in Christ, but that event has evoked all sorts of doubts regarding the goodness and trustworthiness of God, or worthiness of yourself. I know fellow journeyers who have been railroaded by divorce (their parents’ and their own), being the victim of abuse, failure of health, losing their virginity, becoming addicted to porn, betrayal—the list goes on and on—into doubting God’s existence or that he could ever truly love them.
Could it be that you’ve become comfortable keeping God at a safe distance ever since?
For some of you, particularly those who are relatively new to church, your ‘yea but’ has been the valid questions raised by the history of grievances of those who claim the God and Christ of the Christian scriptures. How the first century Jewish teacher of love and grace became the mascot of the crusades, annihilation of Native Americans, and the tormentor of sexual minorities is perplexing to the point of there being a myriad of internet memes that can illustrate these incongruences better than I ever could.
Or maybe your questions reside within the realm of trying to reconcile faith and reason. Regardless, your questions have become your ‘yea but’ preventing you from going any deeper into your journey with God. Could it be that you find an odd comfort in knowing that your questions likely don’t have satisfying answers that would serve as a catalyst for you to move further towards God?
Whether our upbringing, our doubts, or our questions I suspect that our ‘yea buts’ in this regard have a common thread. At some level we all need to feel like we have arrived. Arrived at a point of excellence. Arrived at a point of resolve. Arrived at a point of resolution. The prickly underbelly to feeling like we need to have arrived is that we know, or at least should know by now, that life is too unpredictable and filled with too many unknowns for that to be the thing we base our relationship with God and Christ upon in any facet.
We never know when something is going to come and disrupt our comfort in feeling like everything is in its right place. When that reality becomes the reason for keeping God at arm’s length, then it can become the thing that actually sabotages our engagement with him without us realizing we’re doing it.