I have just returned from a four month sabbatical. Towards the end of the sabbatical I went on a week- long retreat. In the midst of the retreat, I was aware of how much I struggle to embrace my humanity. I was aware that I struggle to accept that I am flawed, weak, and frequently clueless about so much. As a spiritual leader, I am frequently tempted to think that I should have a clear idea about where God is leading us and that my church community will suffer greatly if I don’ have the answers. I was also aware of how weak my faith is much of the time. This internal struggle with accepting my limitations as a leader is compounded when I tend to think that other leaders have it all together. How comforting then to discover that one of the great leaders in Church history, the 18th century evangelist John Wesley, could write the following in a letter to his brother Charles:
"In one of my last [letters] I was saying that I do not feel the wrath of God abiding on me; nor can I believe it does. And yet (this is the mystery), I do not love God. I never did. Therefore I never believed, in the Christian sense of the word. Therefore I am only an honest heathen ... And yet, to be so employed of God!
Of course, we should never assume that how a person feels at one moment applies to all moments, but that Wesley could say that he never loved God and was only an “honest heathen” is shocking. Yes shocking if we forget that like us he was human. Yes shocking if we forget that like us he had days when he experienced God’s nearness (“my heart was strangely warmed”), and days when God seemed far off. Yes shocking if we forget that being a disciple doesn’t mean that you are always madly in love with God.
And yet! In spite of his struggles, he can say “And yet, to be so employed of God!” As we struggle to be disciples today maybe how we feel about God and ourselves is to a certain extent irrelevant. Maybe God can employ us. Maybe our humanity won’t get it in the way, but will be precisely the stuff God uses to get the job done.