The longer you're in pastoral ministry, the more you move from being an astronaut to an archaeologist. When you're young, you're excitedly launching to worlds unknown. You have all of the major decisions of life and ministry before you, and you can spend your time assessing your potential and considering opportunities. It's a time of exploration and discovery. It's a time to go where you've never been before and do what you've never done. It's a time to begin to use your training and gain experience.
But as you get older in ministry, you begin to look back at least as much as you look forward. As you look back, you tend to dig through the mound of the civilization that was your past life and ministry, looking for pottery shards of thoughts, desires, choices, actions, words, decisions, and relationships. You can't help but assess how you have done with what you have been given.
Now, who would be so arrogant and bold as to look back on their life and ministry and say, "In every possible way I was as good as I could have been"? Wouldn't we all hold some of those pottery shards in our hands and experience at least a bit of regret? Wouldn't all of us wish that we could take back words we have said, decisions we have made, or actions we have taken?
If you and I are at all willing to humbly and honestly look at our lives, we will be forced to conclude that we are flawed human beings. And yet we don't have to beat ourselves up. We don't have to work to minimize or deny our failures. We don't have to be defensive when our weaknesses are revealed. We don't have to rewrite our histories to make ourselves look better than we actually were. We don't have to be paralyzed by remorse and regret. We don't have to distract ourselves with busyness or drug ourselves with substances.
Isn't it wonderful that we can stare our deepest, darkest failures in the face and be unafraid? Isn't it comforting that we can honestly face our most regretful moments and not be devastated? Isn't it amazing that we can confess that we really are sinners and be neither fearful nor depressed?
We can do all of these things because, like David, we have learned that our hope in life is not in the purity of our character or the perfection of our performance. We can face that we are sinners and rest because we know that God really does exist and that he is a God of:
Because he is, there is hope – hope of forgiveness and
Yes, we really can fully acknowledge our sin and failure and yet be unafraid.