Also as a future minister, it is important that I am the example to anyone that I attempt to direct spiritually. This has scared me to death ever since the great fish spat me back onto the shore. I left the pursuit of God's call just after my first seminary experience. When I returned I had picked up some major seaweed! Mostly that was evident in my attitude, but as often it was obvious that I had lost my sense of personal piety. The Evangelical machine caused me to question ALL its results. That was not fair of me. To be a holy man is still expected of all ministers. The Evangelical method may be misguided along the way...but they are still on the way.
The best way to explain this failure of piety is to point out one's language. I have come to regard off-color language quite like body-odor. If a man is a bit skunky, he can easily remedy that...so don't question his piety every time he turns up with b-o. Likewise a man's language is easily curtailed if he is too profane. Don't judge by that alone. I began to apply this to myself liberally. Just ask my wife. She began to hear words from my mouth that don't suit a man committed to following Christ. Jesus' words about the filth coming OUT of us being more important than the food that goes IN seemed to slip my mind. In our culture how do you bring this up to someone?
Guidance and Direction
That is what is missing in the Evangelical Church that I left. If I don't have mastery of Sin then I have no business advising others how to overcome damaging thoughts and behavior. "Blind leading the blind" ring a bell? We all need to live by rules...we all need guidance...we all need direction. We don't need people making up their own rules and foisting them legalistically over others. So I have picked back up another weapon in the fight for my soul. That tool, or weapon, is the Jesus Prayer.
Oh, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
Anytime I encounter a tempting thought or image, I now say this prayer. No, that does not make it a talisman nor the foot of a rabbit. I puts me right where I need to be in relation to The King of Glory. In a book I'm reading we are advised, "Whenever Sin knocks, let Jesus get the door." He already proved that He can tackle, trample, repel, overcome, and rid Sin...why not let him help me? By the way, doesn't that quote sound like the cheese you could get from the local Christian bookstore self-help section? Why do I like it so much?
When you begin to struggle (that's opposed to simply wallowing in Sin) against temptation, you are quite wise to take the yoke of Christ and let him pull. Just knowing that you are stuck in a dank squalor is proof that you cannot get out alone. You never could do, and you never will. Also since the tempter is crafty, he will leave you be until you are alone. He don't much like crowds. So temptation is sharper when you are isolated. Who better to call upon than He who is Lord of creation...able to join you at any location, in any situation?
But there are other warriors ahead of us, ready to instruct. We call them pastors, or shepherds. They are best suited to dispense the grace of God as well as 'reign in' wayward sheep.
I want to blog more about spiritual direction after my last class session.