Gr*t Happens



By now we’ve all learned that life isn’t perfect.

By now we’ve concluded that the plans we envisioned for our lives are probably not going to happen.

By now we realise that having a degree doesn’t necessarily mean having a great career. Getting married doesn’t mean we’ll live happily ever after. Being a mummy isn’t as easy as it looked when we were dreaming about it. Money isn’t the answer to all our problems. Jobs don’t last, fame is fleeting, and even though your picnic at the beach is sunny and funny, you still get sand in your swimmers, your shoes and your sandwiches.

Gr*t happens!

I’ve never met a good leader with a complaining spirit. They either got over it by the time they came on my radar or they never had it in the first place. Truth is, bad things happen to good people (and dammit, good things happen to bad people too).

Joseph is a prime example. It’s hard to know whether he was a complainer because even though we hear his arrogance and insensitivity loud and clear, we don’t hear any of his complaints. We see understanding come to him when the hard years are over and he’s second in command of Egypt; by which time he’s realised that God was at work in and through all the ugly, evil, jealous, murderous actions of his brothers and the others. Had he not been sold into slavery, he would have been the usurping head of a dysfunctional family instead of a whole nation. Had he merely got his prayers answered, he would have been out of jail, but not out of slavery.

David complained a lot, so did Job … but they seemed to direct their complaints to the Lord, rather than anyone who stood still long enough to be taken captive.

Criticism and complaint were two of my inherent characteristics until I got so sick of listening to myself that I started looking for a way out. The constant squawking of my own voice in my ear when I was bending someone else’s ear gradually became very, very wearing, irritating and boring.

The trouble with being fed up with yourself is you can never get away. Your only options are to change or to die of the toxic fumes.

Oysters seem to have the right idea. They get gr*t all the time. They’re surrounded by sand, so no surprises there. Tough gig for the oyster but it has developed a solution, a magic panacea for pain called nacre. When gr*t intrudes into its world causing extreme discomfort, oysters produce nacre to coat that thing. That’s how pearls are produced. Interestingly, not only is an ugly, painful experience turned into something beautiful, but due to its strength and resilience nacre is used for many other purposes.

Gr*t happens to everyone. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs says the human condition will always seek ways to fulfil the felt needs in our lives, in order to ease our suffering. If our problem isn’t that we find ourselves in a war zone, or not having enough to eat, (neither of which has happened to me) it will be about having a distant father (which did happen to me) or lack of personal security, or other things which cause us to go on a quest for safety, belonging, good self esteem, or whatever needs our backgrounds have shaped as a vacancy within us. We all have issues that make us feel our lives fall short, one way or another.

However, the problem is that gr*t is addictive. Wallowing in our pain can become habit-forming. I’m not decrying the depth of the issues people have to face; I’ve faced my own, and continue to face them. I also know it is easier to stay by the pool of Bethesda, waiting for something to miraculously happen to take away my crippled mindsets than it is to rise, take up my bed and walk.

There came a time, after 38 years, when I realised I didn’t want to live as a victim any more. There were people around me to help pull me up, but the choice to get up and leave my victim status had to be mine. When Jesus spoke to that bloke at Bethesda Pool, He asked him if he actually wanted to be well. Sometimes that’s the question we need to ask ourselves.

I have lost count of the people I’ve known over my 30+ years as a leader who have seriously been called by the Lord to great things, but never got around to doing much of them because they were so focused on their brokenness instead of the wholeness that Jesus can give. It’s a tragedy.

I loved reading that Bill and Lynn Hybels from Willow Creek Church have been in counselling for years. They are two of the most impactful leaders in the Church right now, so the admission of their own deep need for help from others is encouraging for the rest of us.

It’s not wrong, it’s not failure, to need help in some areas of your life while you’re in the process of fulfilling your destiny. Get help, go to counselling, get a coach, be mentored, study—do whatever it takes to train yourself to be an oyster, secreting forgiveness and repentance over your pains to develop something that is not only beautiful, but also strong and resilient.

We may not all be leaders, but we all exert influence on people around us. The pain we’ve experienced and continue to deal with through the exceeding great love and power of Christ, is transformed into pearls for the people around us.

The world around us is crying out to be influenced. People are listening to the voices around them, hoping to hear words that will set them free.

Only Christ can truly heal, and only the Healed can truly show the immense power and grace He has to make broken people whole, turning gr*t into beauty, strength and resilience.