by dave jacobs
About five years ago I fell down our stairs. Not from the top all the way to the bottom, but about six steps…I think, I can’t really remember. I was alone. It’s not good to fall when you’re alone. It’s best to fall when people are around but it’s hard to schedule things like falling. As I lay there on my back I had a conversation with myself…because there was no one else there but me.
“Okay, stay down. Don’t get up yet, maybe you’re about to pass out. You don’t want to fall a second time. What’s that pain in my foot? Don’t look, you might see a bone. You’ve got to look. Okay, you can do this. Don’t get up but take a look.”
Sure enough, my foot was twisted in the wrong direction.
“Okay, you’ve got to try to stand up and see if you can put pressure on it. No don’t! What if my foot just flaps back and forth? Well you just can’t lay here until Ellen gets home. Why not?”
I grabbed the handrail and slowly pulled myself up. I could put weight on it…kind of.
“That’s good, it’s not flapping. But you’re hurt, you need to see the doctor. Wait, I can’t drive, especially since I don’t have a car. I’ll call Ellen. Oh please God let my phone be in my pocket. No, don’t call Ellen. No need to worry her. Call Mark (my son), maybe it’s his day off. He might make fun of me but I know he won’t be worried.”
Mark did come. Mark did take me to the doctor. Mark did make fun of me. I slowly recovered.
Here’s the thing. I’d gone up and down those stairs for seven years and never fallen. Had I become reckless? Was I overly confident with my stair-climbing and decending?
Never underestimate your ability to fall.
I’m sure by now you’ve realized that this isn’t about falling down stairs.
Most of us are familiar with Paul’s warning in I Corinthians 10:12, “Let anyone who thinks they stand be careful because it’s times like this that overconfidence can lead to a fall.”
I have a hard time believing that I could be unfaithful to Ellen. But then I’ve known pastors who committed adultery and I’m sure there was a time when they thought the same thing.
Given the right circumstances, or the right combination of circumstances, I believe we all could be vulnerable to falling. Here are some examples of circumstances or situations to watch out for.
You might be prone to a fall when you are not ‘self-aware.’
You might be vulnerable to falling if you have a tendency to minimize.
You might be headed for a fall if you are on a winning streak.
You might be at risk for falling when you are tired.
You might be more likely to fall when you are stressed out.
You might be susceptible to falling when you are spiritually dry.
You might be open to a fall when you are bored, angry, hurt, or lonely.
Unless you are a stuntman, an athlete, or a skydiver, you’re not planning on falling. The reason why these people seldom hurt themselves (or at least don’t hurt themselves more than they do) is that they’ve taken precautions and they know how to fall in the safest way.
We’re not interested in falling safely. We don’t want to fall at all. And even though it’s unlikely that we will be able to go through life without falling there are things we can do to limit our falls.
1. There’s no need to be paranoid but also don’t be lackadaisical. You can be so focused on avoiding sin that you miss out on the joy and peace of walking with Christ.
2. Practice faithfulness in little things. Most of us will probably never go out and rob a bank. But many of us have felt comfortable with telling a ‘little white lie.’ Jesus reminded us that people who are faithful in little things tend to be faithful in big things too. (Luke 16:10) It seems that the accumulation of small falls can add up to a big fall. Take seriously the small stuff.
3. Preventive prayer. We’re all familiar with that portion of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ that says, “…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
4. Cultivate self-awareness. Consistent times of prayer, meditation, and reflection provide the Holy Spirit opportunities to show us who we really are, and what’s going on inside of us. We might not always like what we see but it’s imperative that we do.
5. Find a trusted, safe, honest friend who we can share our weaknesses and temptations with and who will hold us accountable.
Never underestimate your ability to fall.
My Latest Book Is Out!
Second Thoughts: 100 Things Small Church Pastors Need to Reconsider.
From back cover:
I was a pastor for thirty years before I retired and began coaching pastors. I’m now into my twelfth year of working with ministers and church leaders. The older I get, and the longer I do what I do, the more I find myself having second thoughts about how we do church. And not just church, but how pastors think. It’s not that I am worried that we’ve got it all wrong, but maybe there is another way to look at things. Maybe it would be helpful for us to reconsider things. Maybe the way we run our churches made sense at one time, but now there might be a more effective way to do it. Maybe there are things that fill our minds as pastors of smaller churches that aren’t doing us any good. We need to rethink, reconsider, challenge our approach to ministry and our role as a pastor.