Editor’s Note: Author and pastor Jamie George, the band All Sons & Daughters and a film crew ventured to Europe to trace the lives of C.S. Lewis, Saint Patrick, John Newton, Saint Thérèse, Saint Francis, William Cowper, Saint Augustine, George MacDonald and others, mining for undiscovered gems, something to connect these individuals to modern believers. The resulting journey into the lives and stories of these Christ-followers that God used to wake up the world has been turned into a “Poets & Saints” book, album and video curriculum.
George MacDonald was pressured to leave his church.
St. Francis spent his life working out his father wound.
St. Therese was obsessive in her guilt over sin.
William Cowper wrote from the center of his depression.
John Calvin was unruly, crass and judgmental.
St. Patrick was plagued by shame.
St. Peter was impulsive and co-dependent.
St. Augustine’s longing for more prompted sexual fixation in his first half of life and an ever-present ache for heaven in the second half.
C.S. Lewis called himself the most reluctant convert to Christianity in England.
These are the men and women we remember and revere. Somehow in the midst of their imperfections and brokenness they were used by God to carry His story forward.
This gives me hope.
The Weight of Perfectionism
For a long time, both in my ministry and in the rhythms of my life, I have suffered under the weight of perfectionism. Sometimes it’s a low hum in the background; sometimes it’s front and center. Regardless of how it presents itself, for years I’ve leaned against the pressure to be perfect.
Perhaps it was my desire to listen to the teachings of Apostle Paul to be “imitators of God.” Perhaps it was the WWJD bracelet someone gave me in the 90s. Perhaps it was my middle school quest for approval that lingered into adulthood. For whatever reason, I bought into a lie that I could reach—if only momentarily—some plateau of spiritual perfection.
My time spent with these poets and saints has prompted me to live differently. My goal is no longer to be perfect. My aim is to fully become the person God created me to be.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. -Psalm of David [Footnote Psalm 139:16 NIV]
Spending the last year researching these poets and saints has been both exhausting and life-giving. Exhausting because our church hit a turbulent time of transition and writing a book in the throes of massive change and loss was painfully difficult. Life-giving because these real life Jesus followers inspired me to press on.
St. Patrick was kidnapped and sold as a slave. He eventually found his way home only to realize that home was no longer home. God called him to go back to his captors and to carry the love story of God with him.
George MacDonald, with his wife’s support, barely staved off starvation on a number of occasions while he wrote fantasy stories.
St. Peter had enough faith to defy gravity and enough fear to succumb to it.
Lost in Expectations
As a pastor, I got lost trying to become someone I thought I was supposed to be. I stopped creating and got lost managing the expectations of ghosts.
It might be fair to say demons.
Both my imagination and my soul started dying.
My motives were pure. Our church was in trouble; my pride deceived me into thinking a good pastor was meant to carry the bulk of the weight. Like Peter, I took my eyes off of Jesus and began the slow plunge into the sea.
I have spent the last few months, slowly healing from burnout. I am living differently. I have stopped rescuing and instead I am learning to ask for what I need. And that is humbling. Which is appropriate as humility is the centerpiece of the Kingdom of God.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – St. Matthew, the former Tax Agent
The “things” that Matthew reference in this passage are vast and varied. For me, I am being given faith, hope and love. I am finding my identity in who I am as a redeemed soul and loved child of God. I have slowed down my doing and started being again. Following the guidance of MacDonald, I am more aware of the “holy present.”
I now sit and watch the movement of the clouds. I notice the wind against my cheek. I watch my daughter reading rather than following along in her book. I take time to notice and enjoy the color of my wife’s eyes.
We need time and space to metabolize our impressions. – Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way.
Doing vs. Being
We all have been given talents. Most of us have spent years refining special abilities. This is what we “do.” And stewarding what we do is significant.
But we also have been given super powers or “being” powers. The Bible calls these spiritual gifts. They are powers bestowed upon us by a Divine Being. These gifts reflect his image back to the world. Our ability to fix and manage is our talent. When we use our divine gift to serve someone—without transactional expectations—we are truly being.
It took them a lifetime, but the great poets and saints of the past were determined to live into “all the days ordained for them.” Their lives still impact the world not because they were historical figures that conquered lands and ruled monarchies. We remember them because they lived lives of collected moments.
Moments when they were present to the divine.
Moments when they used their gifts for healing.
Moments when they felt the wind against their cheek and that was enough.
You carry the imprint of your designer; His signature and personality are pressed into your soul. Find it. Own it. Leap into redemption and enjoy the pleasure of a life designed by God.