Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? –Matthew 7:3
I graduated from high school one week after turning 17 and headed off to college at James Madison University. I spent my first two years at college struggling to find myself and my faith. I struggled with drinking and partying and having no relationship at all with God, at one point even telling my mother I wasn’t sure if I believed in God anymore. While I had stopped looking at pornography when I came to college, it had already taken its place in my mind, changing the way I looked at people and the expectations I had for them. I cut people out of my life if they didn’t meet my criteria for what “good people” were. I judged people, had very little grace, and carried around a great deal of shame.
When I decided to turn my life over to Jesus my junior year, I left my former partying friends and joined a campus ministry, determined to change my course. But even there, I maintained that everything with me was great. No one knew that I was still secretly struggling with my self-worth and self-image, with being transparent and honest with others, and with having true intimacy in my life. I was hiding everything about myself behind academic and musical excellence. I made great friends but felt like no one understood me or the deep shame I had about my pornography addiction and struggles with lust and fantasy. I also continued to push people away with my brash and judgmental personality, leaving a trail of hurt friends in my path as I boldly proclaimed truth without love. I could see the everyone else’s faults, but I could not see my own. Even as God called me into youth ministry once I graduated from JMU, I continued losing these battles. In addition, my relationship with my family became strained. My internal struggles eventually became external, and I was abruptly fired from a youth ministry job. I took a break from working in ministry, believing that everyone else was to blame.
There I was: with broken relationships, a struggling career, and very little to call my own. I was too broken to see it then, but looking back, I can see that the common denominator in my problems was me. Too often people will look at their lives and say that they have constantly been victimized or dealt a bad hand—and sometimes, this is true. Other times, however, we are too quick to look at outside sources as the cause for our problems while refusing to look within. Why? Because it is easier to place blame than accept it. Even the Bible acknowledges this in Matthew 7:3—I was more likely to see others’ issues than my own. And Matthew 7:5 continues, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” And to be successful in ministry and life as a prophet gift, I would need to learn this difficult but important lesson.
In response to her penchant for writing songs about her failed relationships, someone said, “Did Taylor Swift ever consider that maybe she’s the problem?” Great question! Now, can we turn that around on ourselves, in our own situations, and ask, “Have I ever considered that perhaps I am the problem?” Because it’s when we are brave enough to look in the mirror instead of the windshield that we can begin to truly tackle our own issues and begin to heal.
Where do you most often look when problems arise: the windshield or the mirror?