Adrian’s Midrash (A-Drash
This Week’s Torah Portion: Korach “Korah”
1 Samuel 11:14-12:22
It’s been a few weeks since my last A-drash; however, because of the summer months and the added day-time hours, I thought it would be best to send them out periodically over the summer. Once school begins, then they’ll become more regular again. Well, as some of you know, Jennie and I just celebrated our 20th year anniversary and we are happy to say that we are still in love and loving each other daily. Although there have been trials along the way, we have overcome and continue to prosper. So, we’d like to thank all of those who have supported us along the way; it’s meant so much to us.
This week’s Midrash is quite sad. Not only is it a tragic story, but a relevant story in today’s world. Korach (Korah), along with thousands, thought higher of themselves then they ought, and, overall, 14,700 people died because of a rebellious attitude. When I used to pastor rather large churches I remember that I was never short of my critics. Regardless of how well I did, or bad for that matter, I could remember receiving at times several pages when I went to the office the following week from some unsigned critic of how bad I did, or what I preached didn’t seem to speak to them.
When I was a young pastor I could remember that I was always distressed and tremendously broken in spirit over such criticism. And, for the majority of the time, I could not address the issue, except in the confines of my small office with Yahweh and myself, because these letters were unsigned. I would be overwhelmed with sadness, but eventually I had to make up my mind if I was going to serve Him or serve man. I also remember that what stuck with me the most, regardless of the praise, was the criticism which hit me the hardest. I could literally hear words of encouragement from 200 people, and then 1 person would say something like, “Well, pastor, it looks like you missed it this week. You must not have studied very much. . . .” For the remainder of the day I couldn’t rest because the one negative trumped the 200 positives.
One of the greatest men of Israel and one of the greatest prophets of all times, Moses, had his share of heart-aches. Often, his critics were charged up by jealousy and envy; however, Moses always went to YHWH. Now, whether or not you’ve been a pastor, rabbi, elder, or congregational leader, I know you can relate on some level. Every person has had to deal with criticism; especially, the constructive criticism that many are eager to offer. However, how it is dealt with is what is important. A wise, old pastor once told me, “Adrian, when you receive these letters, open them and immediately check for a signature, and if you don’t see one, then read the opening to see if it is a positive or a negative . . . if it is an unsigned negative, then throw it into the round-file (trashcan) and get on with your day.” At first I didn’t think this was that good of advice because I thought it was important to hear from both sides; however, what he was saving me from was the self-inflicting doubts I placed on myself for the remainder of the day.
And then one day it happened! Someone actually signed her name. I couldn’t believe it. As I started to read the letter, I realized that although she wasn’t shy about telling me my short-comings as a pastor, she out-weighed the negatives with so many positives that all I could do was read the letter through soaked eyes. She talked about how much my sermons meant to her and to her family. How I strengthened her during her daughter’s lost battle over cancer, and how she knew of and heard of all the gossip that surrounded me as a pastor, which I never heard. And, finally, how I should remain faithful to serve because it was all about an audience of one—God. I realized then that I could handle negatives if they were overshadowed with positives. When I received my Master’s degree in Biblical Counseling I was taught that 1 negative criticism had to be overshadowed by a minimum of 10 positives. Well, I beg to differ. It should be more like 20 positives to 1 negative. Not that we should shy away from constructive criticism, but that we should only take it from those that have no other agenda except love. Man will always have his critics, but only those who walk in love should be heard and, my dear brothers and sisters, let the unsigned critics rest where they should . . . in the round-files of your heart. Life is too short to waste. Yeshua says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, NLT).
I guess if I were to exhort you in any way it is this: if you are led to criticize some one or something, then make sure that your motives are correct, and you love the person you are willing to criticize. Shower them with love and praise. Then, and only then, will you be able to get across to them the things in their lives that are holding them back. I have learned this from trial and error and I have had many failures in my 42 years; however, if you have a different agenda, then you may want to bite your tongue. Believe me, the ground has shaken quite a few times under my feet.
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