Friday, June 10, 2011

Crumbling Pedestals

I've been thinking a lot about pedestals these past few weeks.  Since my public confession on this blog of my sin and failure, I have received several grace-filled notes from former students and old friends who had not heard my story expressing their shock at my actions.  Almost without fail these messages made reference to the high esteem in which they had held me in their memories, expressing feelings that they had come to believe that I was somehow "above" the temptations of this world.  They had placed me on a pedestal.  And that seldom works out well for anyone involved...

Recognizing someone for their gifts, abilities and accomplishments is a wonderful thing.  Placing them on a pedestal is something altogether different.  We live in a world where pedestals crumble before our eyes nearly every day.  Politicians, celebrities, pastors and people we hold in high esteem let us down, and we feel betrayed and hurt.  Just this week the news has been filled with stories of Rep. Weiner from NY and the dramatic crash of his pedestal.  Over and over again I have heard pundits say something like this: "He was a U.S. representative, and he should have known better."  And my guess is he did know better.  I know I certainly did.  But one of the things that happens when you have a group of "followers" is that they begin to expect you to be better- smarter, wiser, more responsible- than they are.  As a youth pastor, I loved that the students, their parents and quite often my Senior Pastor thought that I was "da bomb diggity."  I soaked up any affirmation I could get, and they gave me lots. I longed for a pedestal, and they built me one.  I am not alone.  People begin to build pedestals for leaders to stand on, and then we lift them on to it.  That is a mistake- because we know that "all sin and fall short of the glory of God."  People will fail, and they will let you down.  People do not belong on pedestals.  But there is something else that comes into play as the pedestal is built.  The person being lifted up (and I was one of those) begins to believe his own hype.  You want to be everything they want you to be- but you aren't.  You want to be worthy of being seen as "above the fray" - but you aren't.   You begin to believe that the recognition you receive is conditional.  The love would be there as long as I was the person they thought I was.  You may be seen as a man of God, but you know that you are a sinner just like all the rest. And here's where people like myself and so many others really screw the pooch- we decide to fake it.  We may not be who our "fans" think we are, but we can certainly pretend to be that person.  We start trying to be righteous on our own, and we quit counting on Jesus- a recipe for certain disaster.  As soon as the instinct kicks in that says "don't let them down, give them what they want,"  the pedestal starts to crumble. It's only a matter of time until people realize you may be a good guy, but you never deserved a pedestal.  And in our society today once there is a crash, crowds will gather to shoot the wounded- especially if the crash involves a Christian.  Everyone thought you were supposed to be some kind of different- and you weren't. You were a sinner just like them.  The thing about crumbling pedestals is that when they fall, they crush everyone- the person on top and everyone who is underneath it looking up.

Where am I going with all of this rambling?  Two places.  First and foremost, love your pastors, teachers and church leaders, but don't deify them.  Remember they are human, that they are tempted and that they will, on occasion, disappoint you.  Pray for them but not to them.  The only One worthy of a pedestal is Jesus.  People cannot fall off of a pedestal if you never put them on it.  Expectations are good; unreal expectations destroy.  And when those you love fail, respond with God's love, not with judgement and vindictiveness. Even if you think you are done with them, God is not.  Remember King David?  After killing Goliath and being crowned King, his pedestal was as tall as the Empire State Building.  Then he slept with Delilah (oops!) Bathsheba, had Uriah killed and found himself in a (as my Grandpa Jones used to say) "mell of a hess."  But God was not done with him yet.

To all of you who are rightly disappointed in my actions of 4 years ago, I again apologize.  My crash hurt so many, but I have to admit that I am much more comfortable back at ground level, and I have no intentions of seeking a pedestal ever again.  But know this: Despite my sin and my failure, I live with the knowledge that even someone like me can repent and through grace be known, like King David, as a "Man after God's own heart."  That is the only height to which I aspire these days.  Blessings to you all.

Because of Jesus,


  1. "The thing about crumbling pedestals is that when they fall, they crush everyone- the person on top and everyone who is underneath it looking up."

    So true.

    Thanks again, Carl, for reminding us in your gentle way of the need to only pursue the Way.

  2. Angie, your comments always bless me. So thankful to have you as a reader and a friend!

  3. Anonymous6/10/2011

    You have said much here, my friend. So many of us in the clergy live with a shiny exterior and a dark interior- and we can share it with no one and hope to keep our ministries. The pedestals you refer to are scary places indeed. Thank you for sharing "our" story.

  4. David slept with Delilah too??? I thought it was only Bathsheba! :)

    Dude, you are wearing the weight of a confessed sin way more than God wants you to in my opinion. In fact, I would go as far as to say that you are committing a sin by continuing to attempt to carry the weight of a sin that Christ has already paid for and that God has already forgotten (Ps. 103:12). I only say this because I know what it is to carry a burden that God long ago let go.
    I love your heart for God and your passion for following Him and your authenticity in the messiness of being open with your life! Scripture teaches us that God has a way of reclaiming shipwrecked lives and telling a new and holy story through broken believers! Your best days of ministry are ahead of you, not behind you, friend!

  5. The part of Bathsheba will be played tonight by Delilah! Oops, I'll go change that now! Thank you Nolan, for your convicting and encouraging words. God does indeed reclaim us when we are broken, and I am so thankful for that.

  6. This is so very true. As a teen I was thought of as the good girl and always feeling like I had to live up to everyone's expectations crushed me and my creativity. It suffocated me for many years. Thanks for sharing so honestly Carl. Great post.

  7. Thanks, Amy. So glad that this post resonated with so many.

  8. Indeed, I feel you are a "man after God's own heart". :)


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