04 February, 2008

There and Back Again: Closing the Book

I returned from the Florida retreat center a very confused young man.

I wanted Gene to remain for me the man I'd always imagined him to be. I'd gambled my youth on Gene and on Atlanta, and I wanted to wake up and find I'd been right all along. I wanted my clouds of doubt to part, and to find I'd faithfully puzzled through the hard riddles to earn a job in the kingdom. I wanted to be one of the guys who would change the world, save the church, and suffer in quiet dignity for the rest of my life, regretting nothing I'd done along the way. Remembering the little man I'd seen behind the curtain in that Florida retreat center left those desires on life-support.

The mighty wizard of Oz was shattered into a million pieces. I'd walked my yellow brick road in hopes of finding brain, heart and courage only to have Gene disappoint me in these very qualities. But maybe that was my only problem? Maybe I was simply disappointed that my hero had clay feet? Maybe in my intractibility I would reject Christ Himself, had I the opportunity to sit at His feet instead of Gene's. Gene was not the mighty wizard I imagined him to be, nor that he advertised himself to be, but maybe he was still the man God had put in my life. It was mine to decide whether the real man behind the curtain was worth following.

The last week of the conference did nothing to help me decide. It was more of the same. I volunteered to confront Lenny directly, and to let him know the score of the game in which he was caught. It was my last action of the conference, and our conversation lasted two or three hours. I was a good deal more honest than I had been with the sister I'd confronted earlier, and I listened a great deal better.

I left feeling like we understood each other, and we arrived in time to attend the last conference meeting of the whole church with Gene. Yet again, Gene expected to straighten things out once and for all. Maybe Lenny came to that meeting a little too prepared because, again, nothing significant happened. Maybe I played a part in the cooling the fireworks; I don't know. If so, it was not due to any noble intent on my part. I wanted Lenny to decide to be fully in the church or fully out, and to quit hovering on the edge like he had been. I was still very much trying to walk Gene's straight and narrow path.

After the meeting, I loaded my bags back in the car and headed home to Atlanta. The eight hour ride, just me and my incessantly buzzing questions, was not to be envied. I could not go back to my first intent of serving under Gene's ministry 'til death, nor move on to the new idea of getting out before it was too late. Cutting and running held no appeal for me. Some day having to write a history like this was a heartbreaking thought.

Zig Ziglar tells about an old shoe salesman who decided to show the uninformed kid how powerful a sales position really could be. The kid was merely trying to help customers pick their own shoes, but the old salesman explained how his job was to help the customer pick wisely. The rub was that the kid believed every customer knew exactly what he wanted. Finally, the old salesman pulled out all the stops. He told the kid he'd sell the longest lasting, best made, but ugliest shoe in the store to whomever next came through the door.

The hapless customer asked for assistance, and the salesman brought him a couple shoes in the style he asked for, plus the ugly shoes. He let the customer try on the ugly shoe. He said it was butt-ugly. Then he tried the other shoe, and it was the wrong color. So the salesman went back for another shoe size and style. When he returned, he let the customer try the ugly shoe again. The customer looked at it, and decided against it, then tried the other styles. After a short discussion, the salesman went back for more shoes. On his third trip out, he had the customer try all the other shoes, then finally the ugly shoe once again.

This time, the customer bought the well-built, long lasting, ugly shoe.

The strangeness of the shoe is what had thrown the customer off. It was simple unfamiliarity. The third time the customer saw the ugly shoe, it was no longer strange. He could see it for what it was, and having become familiar with it, he decided to take it home.

So it was with me and leaving Gene. I had never listened to such a thought as disagreeing with my mentor before, but I was wining and dining it now. Over the next several months the idea grew a little more familiar, a little more believable, a little more possible, a little more probable.

One day Gene called an emergency meeting of the church in my living room.

The whole church came together to hear whatever news was weighing so heavily on Gene's mind. We were all scared. We'd been in trouble before, and we didn't know what could possibly have gone so wrong. Gene had just returned from Florida, so we suspected it was something from down there, but one never knows. We were right. It was Florida.

He told us that Florida's struggles had gone on too long, and that the struggles were all due to Lenny's negative influence. Gene recounted how he had worked for a month during his training conference, then written and phoned Florida trying to drag them out of their problems. Finally, he had visited Florida alone, and only then learned the true extent of their problems.

While in Florida, during a brothers' meeting, Gene had taken a vote asking who were the most influential people in the church there. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lenny was voted the most influential person in Florida. The rest of the votes had been scattered around as expected, and Gene had gotten a few votes himself, but Lenny was the most influential member of that church.

After that vote, Gene continued, his hand had been forced. He could not willingly split a church, so he had been forced to step aside as the father of the church in Florida. He had handed control of the church over to Lenny, and requested that every member of the church follow Lenny with all the faithfulness they had shown in following him.

We were stunned.

I'm sure the brothers and sisters in Florida were devastated.

That such a fate should come to such a faithful church was deeply shocking to us all. I was reeling. I fought to rationalize what Gene had done, wondering how it could be the right thing to do. I knew Lenny, and I knew the other brothers there, and I knew Gene. It was a matter of finding the missing link. I was missing something obvious, but key. I kept shuffling the players and games in my mind, seeking the combination that made it all come together.

Until I talked to one of the sisters in the church.

She said, "You believed that crap? None of that's what happened. Lenny won that vote and Gene lost his temper. They thought Lenny was the most influential person in the church, so Gene decided they could stew in their juices and gave the whole church to him. Gene knows it'll never last, and he was too angry to care who it hurt."

Wow. That was definitely the missing piece. Her explanation covered character, motive and opportunity perfectly. There were no gaps.

We sat for about an hour, connecting dots. We looked back at times Gene told us he was doing things for our good, and somehow those things always matched up with better with his convenience or emotions than ours. We looked at the way Gene treated influential brothers, and he always found a way cool their jets. And now, when the church in Florida withheld their affirmation, Gene lashed out.

No one knows what is happening in a man, except the spirit of the man and his Lord. I'll never know why Gene handled the church in Florida the way he did. I'll never know why he reacted the way he did to Florida, but when Gene rejected the church in Florida the ugliest shoe in the store started looking really good to me. I'd be walking away from Gene Edwards.

But it wouldn't be easy.

The old voice grew stronger as I slowly accepted my decision. My flesh screamed, "What about your work?! You have to mature into a worker in God's kingdom, and for that you need the church. You have to save the church, not run from its problems." I grew truly. I fantasized that I might change Gene's style, or run off and start another church, or that everything might just turn out OK. I'd built an inner world around waiting for the day I'd emerge from my cocoon and be a worthwhile person in God's kingdom. Breaking out of that cocoon was a slow, painful process. Losing my best hope of being "somebody," riding on Gene's coattails, was terrifying. Leaving Gene meant going back to just being Kevin, instead of Kevin Knox, church planter in training.

I couldn't really believe I'd be "somebody" as anything less than a church planter.

Slowly, though, walking away from Gene grew real to me. I loved the brothers and sisters in my church, but I realized I'd have to leave them. Too much of what they talked about was rationalizing the things Gene was doing in Florida, Lithia Springs, and all the churches. Many of their discussions assumed my implicit agreement with everything Gene was doing, and I'd have to leave the room or change the subject if they started wondering why I was so quiet. It was not workable, and I began to resign myself to my final departure from Gene's churches, from my church.

There were a couple of obstacles.

I lived in the heart of the Lithia Springs church, and I had promised to leave quietly if ever the time came. Gene was careful to teach that silence was golden, and anything else was a dishonor. If, at any point, you were unhappy with the church or the worker you were to talk to no one about it. And the day you decided to leave, you must leave without giving reasons, without confiding in friends, sharing your hurts, without "accidently" taking anyone with you. From the beginning, I'd promised to leave quietly and alone, and at the end I intended to keep my word.

That promise was a lot easier to make when I was sure I'd never, ever leave. Now that I was leaving, silence was a grave test. But was my word worth anything or not? I was silent. I said nothing, and prayed the Lord would show me an open door when His time would come. I prayed a lot - out loud.

The door opened painfully slowly, but when it finally opened no man could shut it.

One day while I was doing some of my freelance programming, Gene called. He had not called me three times in the nine years I knew him, so he had my full attention. To hear from Gene was an odd, odd thing. He called to ask me about the y2k bug. Did I know what it was? Did I know how serious it might be? Was it a threat to embedded systems? They were pretty technical questions coming from a pretty non-technical guy.

It so happened I'd just finished coding my very first y2k fix a day or so before he'd called. I had been examining some code from the Internet for reuse in one of my projects, and I noted a comment left by its second developer. He identified that the original code was vulnerable to the y2k bug, explained exactly what the y2k bug was, and outlined how his fix corrected the problem. (He explained all that in a 3 sentence comment. Computer programmers are very terse communicators.) From that day forward, I never wrote another y2k-vulnerable program, but that wasn't a big deal. The whole fix was only 2 lines long.

I explained to Gene that the y2k bug was mostly harmless. I explained what it was, that it could be very dangerous if us programmers could not make the fixes, but we would. The fixes typically took a few minutes apiece, and we all loved pizza and overtime. Embedded systems absolutely could not be hurt by the y2k bug, because they kept time in "seconds from the epoch," not Gregorian dates, so they'd never know the current year had 3 zeros in it. The electrical transmission grid was safe. I had solid knowledge on that one, because in my day job I formerly worked with 3-phase industrial generators. I let Gene know that I thoroughly knew what I was talking about on y2k, and that he need not worry about it.

Gene hung up, and I wondered whether I'd heard the last of it. I had not, but it was months before I found out what was brewing.

In late 1998, Gene released a book decrying the unavoidable disaster that would end Western Civilization forever. Y2k, he said, would take down the electrical transmission grid and all electrical generators. Without electricity we'd soon find ourselves living in the stone-age. There would be food riots radiating 50 miles outside of every major city, and little things like toilet paper would become the scarcest, most valuable commodities in our lives.

It took every ounce of discipline in my heart to read that book, but I did - from cover to cover. It was not a pleasant experience.

Gene's churches went into light panic mode, but Gene was prepared. He called us all together and layed out his plan. He assured us he'd been exercising practical parental care for us while we were still oblivious to the danger. He'd already thought through the ramifications and the wisest course of action for us. We only needed to believe the seriousness of the problem, and be thankful God had given us such a careful church planter.

He had already purchased a tract of land just across the Alabama border, more than 50 miles from any major city, and was preparing that land to be subsistence farmed. He counseled all of us to cash out our 401k's, taking the tax hit for early withdrawal, and invest that money into emergency supplies and a portion of the Alabama land. We'd move the supplies to Alabama throughout 1998 and some time in late 1999 everyone could evacuate there to start a new life.

My jaw went slack.

Brothers and sisters quickly figured out that I was not on board with Gene's plans and preparations. Not cashing out my 401k and buying zero emergency supplies was probably their first clue. At first a couple people asked me what I thought of the whole thing, but gradually they just left me alone. I was not 100% sure Gene was wrong, of course, but there was no way I was throwing my future in with Gene Edwards again on a subject about which he knew nothing - computers and farming were both in that category.

I watched saints cash out five-figure 401k's back when we thought that was a lot of money. They gave half their money to the IRS, spent the rest on disaster supplies and farmland, and then watched as the stock market soared (was it 40%?) in the ensuing months. I figured that a $25,000 401k was worth $14,000 after it was pulled, instead of the $35,000 to which it would have grown. I watched living rooms fill up with canned and dry foods, water, and survival gear. I listened while city-slickers debated what they could and could not grow in Alabama soil. The intensity kept ramping up, and I kept playing dumb. Finally, they reached the point of requiring a commitment from me.

They needed to know who was in and who was out.

That's how y2k gave me an open door out of the church. I went through it with peace in my heart. In Nov, 1998 I officially announced I would not be moving to Alabama and I was taking a break from the church. In late Jan, 1999 I announced that I would never be returning. In Mar, 1999 I received a piece of personal news that confirmed leaving was the right decision, but by that time I was already gone. I received that personal news exactly because I had finally left, so it was no factor in my decision. I hit the door because Gene did not treat churches the way he advertised he would, and Gene's y2k blunder was my convenient excuse.

I was well and truly gone, and never looked back.

I stayed in Atlanta through Dec 31, 1999, to see my company through the turning of the millenium. My family and I watched movies on the projector screen, while I babysat my computers through the transition into the new century. We had pizza that night, and not a single system hiccuped. I have no idea what the churches said or thought or did when all the lights were working on Jan 1, 2000. When I leave something I leave it for keeps, but I'm sure they congratulated themselves for preparing so well. It's human nature to always see the good in the things we do, and I don't blame them a bit. I shudder to think how much dried food I'd still be eating if I'd never gone to that training retreat with Gene.

I know the churches carried on after I left, and continued to explore the things I once held so important. I trust they found the Lord together, as I did with them during the good years. Their hearts were turned to the Lord, and He always hears His people. I praise Him for the hope I still hold that He's blessed them over the years.

For my part, I've slowly learned to enjoy being a regular Joe, a normal Christian. This month I will even sign the dotted line and become a thankful member of an organized church. My brothers from Atlanta will tut-tut me, and I will mourn my faded dreams just as if they'd been real. And somehow all of us, no matter what we've decided, will know that we are walking where the Lord has put us.

I'm not sure life gets any better than that.

And so I close the book on some of my dreams. As I look back at the pride that dragged me down, the pain I've caused and felt, the places the Lord has brought me, and the joy I've found at last, the letter from James seems to answer my story best:
Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each of you is tempted when you are dragged away by your own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Don't be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.


Praise the Lord's mercy, it's never too late to stand the test.

Kevin Knox

21 comments:

Bill said...

:)

Just so you know, Kev, only a few people spent y2k eve in Alabama. The rest of us spent the night in Lithia, laughing hysterically at ourselves, totally confident nothing was going to happen.

Of course, I happen to remember a lot of other things somewhat differently, but I won't try to go point-for-point on fuzzy memories. It's too easy to believe negative things, anyway... so here's something positive.

I remember you had many fine qualities as a brother and perhaps no greater flaws than the rest of us. I remember us getting past many difficulties together and finding the Lord with you. All of us, warts and all.

So all's I've got left to say is carry on with the Lord, bro, and be glad for where he's got you.

Honestly, no "tut tut" about it. ;)

steggy said...

Shades of Jonestown, I'd say. Some of the anecdotes you're mentioned remind me of why I hate what some people do to the "organized" part of religion. So much depends upon the character of the ones doing the organizing. So much can and does go wrong.

It's a a shame that you and others were sold a diamond mine for a dime, and found out it wasn't worth a nickel in the end. Especially those who were foolish enough to believe that mess about y2k and lost their savings.

*sigh*

I know a bit about doing something you believe in and working like a dog through thick and thin, despite doubts. Every good intention in the world thrown into it, yet it only gives birth to strife and self-doubt.

It's not a fun ride, but dead useful for learning and growing.

It's funny how, when people are disappointed by their leaders, they immediately begin rationalizing. Oh, he was stressed-out. Oh, he was busy. Oh, he just wanted more control. Oh, he was just jealous. And on and on. The problem with those rationalizations is that the HMFIC still remains perfect, instead of being truly seen as they are -- inherently flawed.

I understand the issues you had about leaving in silence. It's a hard thing to tell the truth from your perspective, without fear of coming across as (a) bitter, (b) angry, (c) defensive, or (d) all the above. You've done a fine job, even if it took you awhile to get it out.

Phil Smoke said...

I just read this whole series of posts, and want to thank you for sharing, especially so much history and pain. I don't quite know what to make of it, but I feel like it's bubbling around in me, and God will use my having heard it. Thank you.

salguod said...

CP - You've handled this with admirable grace and humility. It can be very hard not to look back and see all of it as bad and all of the people involved as duped and lost. Many who left our fellowship carry such bitterness at what was done, they cannot see the good that did come of it and cannot understand at all why anyone would willingly stay. Anyone who does is a fool or worse.

It's interesting to see someone you know from that time following this. There are always two sides to every story (or more). It seems that both of you have treated this difference with grace.

I'm not certain I could have sat by and watched Gene lie to those folks, especially as I had advised him the exact opposite of what he was espousing and it would cost those folks so much. I understand the motive behind the desire for silence among those leaving, and I can understand you desiring to live up to your commitment to it. However, silence is used as a weapon sometimes. Labeling any disagreement as disunity and requiring one to keep their differing opinions to themselves is a means to keep control.

When my church went through it's challenging time, when things were revealed and many left, I learned a lot from talking to those who were leaving. None that I recall were slanderous, all had sound reasons for their disagreements. I grew from listening to them. I'm still here, smarter for listening to those who left.

BTW - Given some of your recent posts on church, I'm surprised that you're joining your church. Nothing wrong with that, of course, it just seems contrary to what you had recently written that's all.

codepoke said...

Hey Bill,

I figured everyone was in Lithia when I pictured ya'll making the best of it. My point was simply that we all follow the Lord wherever we are. We don't roll up our tents and quit every time things don't go like we expected.

> All of us, warts and all.

Wait 'til I show you this one wart, dude. ;-)

Love is that while we were yet enemies, our God died for us. Now that we are all imperfectly calling on Him, He does no less. He loves us all the more when we begin failing Him, because we are for Him.

Our mistakes just mean we're trying. So, let's carry on indeed.

codepoke said...

> The problem with those rationalizations is that the HMFIC still remains perfect, instead of being truly seen as they are -- inherently flawed.

True, Steggy, and I hear you on the miles you've walked.

They say that if you are checking out a new diet or some such, never ask a person who's just started it. They become ego-attached to the diet's success as soon as they invest themselves in it, and so they will sing the praise of said diet even while it's doing nothing for them. They have to believe they're not going through all this pain for nothing.

Leaving Gene was not hard because I saw him as perfect. It was hard because I needed to keep seeing myself as wise. The final, highest obstacle to leaving Gene was admitting that I was wrong.

Someone pretty bright once said, "You can't sucker an honest man."

codepoke said...

May the Lord bless, Phil.

Milly said...

One of the many things that I love about you is that you have an ability to remember stuff and that you are honest about yourself.
Some of us have trouble in those areas.

Thank you for opening your heart to us.

Keep praying OUT LOUD.

codepoke said...

> I'm not certain I could have sat by and watched Gene lie to those folks,

My actions speak for me, and may the Lord judge me with mercy.

> BTW - Given some of your recent posts on church, I'm surprised that you're joining your church. Nothing wrong with that, of course, it just seems contrary to what you had recently written that's all.

Yes, brother. I decided (though I resisted vowing) that I would never join a church in about 1979. I've never heard an argument against the organized church that I did not espouse and champion.

It was just a couple months ago that I started writing my series on blooming where you are planted. It was because I started writing that, and as I was writing it, that I saw something very inconsistent about my theology of the church. I could embrace an Arminian, love a Dispensationalist, commune with a Sacramentalist, even worship with a Complementarian, but would reject a person who believed he should humbly submit to a bishop. It became clear to me, finally, that the Lord was King where hearts were joined, not where paper was banished.

It was a short walk from there to seeing that a body of believers could be joined together in a CMA church as easily in home church. I have not forgotten my arguments, and I'll not be learning anything new when home church people lecture me on the error of my ways.

I'll be tut-tutted, even by organized churches, and that's fine.

codepoke said...

Thank you, Milly.

Milly said...

Codepoke,
You’re welcome and as you know I’m not a big fan of slamming doors and yelling at folks who believe differently. ;-} I did do that a few times. I think that when you leave a church you shouldn’t go loudly. I know that it wasn’t easy for you to keep the lie to yourself and I’m sure you agonized over it. I doubt that they would have listened to you. I didn’t listen to those who were yelling on their way out and still don’t to those with a foot in the door. I yelled but stayed because God keeps me where I am for now.

I think it’s cool that you have found this church and the folks in it to be with.

Peace bro.


Ok so the word verification was roadtrp and now it's iranx should I be hitting the road? where's my Seger CD?

Missy said...

In this telling, there are facts you recall that can be easily judged, and yet you refrain from judgement on all but yourself. I find that, and your silence, very Christ-like. They weren't going to hell - just being unwise. One requires a soapbox and the other requires someone asking for your opinion. I don't think God made any mistakes in allowing you (or the rest of us!) this lesson. Thanks for sharing, Kevin. You should write a book someday - about this or fiction or whatever. Really. Your good at telling stories.

codepoke said...

Thank you, Missy.

But tell me about your questions. Did I answer them? And if I didn't, do you think it's a comment or a post to do so?

salguod said...

I hope that I was clear that my saying that I'm not sure I could have been quiet does not mean that you should have spoken up. No way I can possible judge that. I can appreciate the challenge of your position at the time. What is obvious to you is not even visible to them. If you speak out, they won't be able to comprehend what you're saying.

The only way you could have approached it would have been to confront Gene privately, and he certainly wouldn't have listened. Then what? Announce to the group that their beloved leader is a liar? That's not going to go down well. That would, frankly, only satisfy your own emotions, nothing else. It takes a lot of maturity and self control to be silent when your emotions beg you to speak. I'm not sure I would have had the control.

In hindsight and from the outside, it's easy to point fingers and second guess, and that was not my intention.

Milly - Come on over! You and CP and I can have cookout or something.

Missy said...

Kevin, I think the questions in my mind were mostly laid to rest by the end of the telling. It seems that the story really isn't over, as the lessons you've learned keep building on one another. Of course, my first question of this being right or wrong, I think you might agree with me that we often tend to be were we need to be when we need to be there. And of course, that God's ways are not our ways. Is that vague enough? :)

codepoke said...

Salguod,

> In hindsight and from the outside, it's easy to point fingers and second guess, and that was not my intention.

No sweat. Really. I've wondered for years what I should have said when. I wondered at the time. In the end, I did what I did and I really do wonder what the Lord will say. I can't discern whether I did what I did from courage or cowardice, idealism or pragmatism. It could be either or more. All I can wrap myself in is Paul's hope.

I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.

codepoke said...

Missy,

Amen, sister. I praise the Lord with you.

> I think you might agree with me that we often tend to be were we need to be when we need to be there.

How do I say? I agree with you. I was in Gene's churches exactly when I needed to be there, when there was nowhere else I could have been. And I was there with the Lord's blessing, and I found Him there and with the brothers and sisters I joined. But the reason I needed to be there was not a good thing. It was a bad addiction when the only fix I could find was Gene's ministry.

Home churches are not inherently unsafe. They worked wonderfully for the first couple hundred years of the church's history. But in America, I believe close churches are more important. Gene tries to be a church in community, which should theoretically be the perfect arrangement, but as long as the only people who join a church are those extreme enough to move it can never be a balanced group.

Hence, I believe the safest, most profitable place to look for a healthy church experience is the closest possible church.

But I've been wrong before.

Kansas Bob said...

Hey CP! Finally got some time to finish up your beautiful story. I agree with Missy about making a novel of it.. or at least a made for TV movie. :)

The Y2K deal didn't just affect fringe religious folks.. I had heard that a major ministry in Colorado Springs was advising their staff to stock up on bottled water and food supplies. Interesting how even the mot sophisticated amongst us can get scared by a little technolgy :)

Anonymous said...

Kevin,
Wow, well spoken! We have never met but we have shared a lot of the same experiences and pain. I appreciate you telling your story and look forward to meeting you one day. I must say that I shook my head and laughed a lot (its either laugh or cry). My introduction to Gene was in Dec of 1999 when I read the book Climb the Highest Mountain - thats when my whirlwind began. But I learned a lot and am thankful for it all (been out for 4 years) and I know that our God is bigger and more than any of us can imagine or know.
Chris Pridham
a brother in Jacksonville Fl

pridham10@hotmail.com
904-343-4525

codepoke said...

Glad to meet you Chris, and I'm sorry it had to be through our mutual acquaintance with Gene Edwards.

I have not heard much about Gene's time in Jacksonville, but the little that's been told me is right in line with the old patterns. I'm sorry you had to go through that. I am hoping that someone, somewhere may be spared our "education" if they hear the other side of the story. Gene tells his side well enough, that's for sure.

May the Lord bless your search and establish your feet on His path.

J. Samuel Thomas said...

I agree with Bill here in that we all contribute to and take away from our shared experiences something unique.

What is significant is when two or more can say 'amen' to what's been experienced....positive or negative.
(Not that any individual understanding is without merit, of course).

What so many need today is simply to be honest. Not generous. Not vengeful.....but HONEST.

This is especially needed among those who desire to be 'teachers' or leaders.

That is one thing that I love about the Lord Jesus Christ:
He simply told the truth, and in doing so, revealed an aspect of Himself.

In the big picture, God knows all.
In light of that, learn to be honest with Him, and ourselves, this, in turn, leads us into honesty with one another.

So what does this all mean...? Why am I sharing this here...?
Because I am personally encouraged by your honesty, and I believe that it is a testimony to the Lords people as well as forces in unseen realms.