Tristan went berserk then...howling occasionally in a language not known on earth. 
- Jim Harrison, Legends of the Fall

There are times I just want to howl.

I've felt that way lately.

Coyle was a mentor of mine for a brief season.  As that time drew to a close, he challenged me: John, be a confessional pastor; live with your sin in plain sight.

I remember an evening years ago when I was a pastor, years after his challenge, standing before a gathering of other pastors imploring them to live a confessional life.  I didn't have a biblical text (mistake #1).  Rather, I read from The Velveteen Rabbit and asked if we, as leaders, could live and lead as broken men and women.  From their faces and body language, I was speaking some unknown tongue, a language not known on earth.  I might as well have been howling.

I believe this has changed somewhat since that evening years ago. But it is still the exception rather than the rule.  Maybe it always will be.  I don't know.

We just don't know what to do with our sin, which means we just don't know what to do with ourselves. We haven't found an app for that.  The prevailing rah-rah seems to be that at some point the sin will go away, that I'll reign victorious, more than a conqueror, over this wretched body of flesh.  And the thought that I might still be struggling with the same sin, or a variation on its theme, after all this time? Well, that must mean I'm a schmuck or weak or I just don't 'get it' or I haven't 'surrendered fully' or something.


Coyle also told me, years ago: John, your shit stinks, just like everybody else.

Guess what?  It still does.  Just like yours.

I've added a new name to my blogroll - Jamie The Very Worst Missionary -  Her latest post gets at this in a funny, poignant way.  I appreciated it. You might too.  Maybe.

Then again, maybe not.  If not, you might hear a ruckus in the background.  There are times I just want to howl.



  1. I wish we were neighbors. My husband could use a guy like you in his life.

  2. John,

    You know how I feal about this topic. James 5:16, and all.

  3. I think we all prefer reality over religion. I'm sure the pastors who heard you that day respected your guts, but were too afraid of what others thought. Hopefully you planted an honesty seed that has grown in them since.
    We're pretty "bad" missionaries too, which is probably why I'm too scared to blog. But I'm secure in His grace.

  4. O Mom,

    Your husband sounds like a good man...

  5. Seth, I 'feal' ya...thanks for the link-dink too...

  6. Stephanie,

    Some seed falls on the good soil and some on the rocks, eh? In this American Xnity stuff, it's still pretty buttoned-up and stinky...

  7. Love Jamie...funny and honest. Two of my favorite qualities.

  8. Coyle sounds like good people.

    I don't know why we're so afraid to show that we're human. And that we're doing the best we can. And that messing up and confessing it can be so freeing, because not only have we "shared", but we are free not to do the same crap over and over again. And guess what? When we do the same crap over and over and have the nerve to apologize, He loves us enough to say, (sigh) "Yeah, I know...I still love you. I still have plans for you. I still died for you." When my pastors are real, it gives the flock a chance to feel safe being real, too. And not just real shitty.

    I tried to go see Jamie, but the pictures wouldn't open. I'll try later.