Mike Weaver: You know, I never wanted to be a singer. I never wanted to be in front of people at all. I loved music. I always wanted to be the guitar player, you know?
And as I began to lead worship and we began to travel and do that over the years, I would just begin to share things from my life, you know? And as we would begin to share stories from our life—even sometimes the stories that are not the ones that you really want to share, it’s the stories of how you struggle and it’s the stories of how you don’t feel like enough. Those are the stories that begin to connect with people.
When We Don’t Love Ourselves, God Still Does: Mike Weaver and James Merritt – Episode #229
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. All of us have experienced those times in our lives where we didn’t feel like enough—reviewing the list of our past mistakes, and the litany of things we don’t like about ourselves can fill our minds with doubt and self-hatred. But if we’ll take a moment to ask God what is good about who we are, we’ll be surprised to find our worth through His perspective. Our guests this week, Christian singer/worship leader Mike Weaver and pastor James Merritt, share how God showed them the truth about themselves and why they matter, and how that gave them the courage and motivation to move forward, helping others find out God’s perspective toward their own lives.
Mike Weaver is a founder and lead singer of the popular, Dove-Award winning group Big Daddy Weave. Mike always loved music, singing in church as a kid and leading worship in his twenties, but he never really imagined himself on a stage and certainly never allowed himself to dream about using his talents in a bigger way—all because he didn’t believe he belonged in a place of influence due to his insecurities about himself. Nonetheless, Mike found success in the Chrisian music arena with gold records and #1 songs, including the powerful song “Redeemed.” Mike shares the story of his beginnings in music and a very special moment, when Mike was feeling particularly down on himself, that God shone a light on what was good and wonderful about the person Mike is.
Mike Weaver: I’m Mike Weaver, and I sing for a group called Big Daddy Weave. We’ve traveled the country worshiping God with people everywhere, and that’s been for more than twenty years now.
I grew up in a family of strong, strong faith. My mom and dad not only were believers in Jesus, but they really showed me what it is to walk out a relationship with Jesus. So thankful for them. They were really my greatest role models.
Home was always a really safe place for me. And then church really became a home to me as well. I always received such encouragement at church. I always received such encouragement and just a sense of safety at home, which was a real blessing.
I grew up in church listening to church music, listening to Christian music, being very impacted by all kinds of sounds that are in Christian music. But then kind of towards college, I started getting into some other music. We were on the campus of University of Mobile in about 1998. My brother Jay, he’s three and a half years younger than I am, he was with me. And I began meeting people, men who were just fantastic players, Mangeot Shirk, who played sax and keys. And I mean, Jeremy Redmon, who is an amazing, amazing guitar player and an awesome producer. We’d kind of put together a jam session on campus. And within the first fifteen minutes of us playing together, somebody wandered by and they were like, “Oh, man, you guys, I love the sound of this. We’re gonna have this other group playing across campus, you guys should put together a set and then come in and open for the other group that’s coming.”
We were like, “Man, we will have been together like fifteen minutes, and we already got our first gig. This is incredible!”
And so the Lord really just put the whole thing together like that. Then they asked us the question that has forever haunted us. They said, “Well, what do you guys call yourselves?” And, you know, we could have said anything at that moment, but we were just being cute. You know, if you’re my size in the South, you are Big Daddy. My last name’s Weaver. And so we just told him to put on the flier “Big Daddy Weave.” And the rest is history. The moral of that story is be careful what you call your group, because you never know where God is taking this thing. And more than twenty years later, we’re still doing it by the grace of God.
Discovering My Gifts and My Insecurities
I guess it was maybe in my early twenties that I began leading worship at the little church that we grew up in. So I was in school part time over in Mobile, and I was leading worship. And man, worship music, modern worship music had become just such a very deep part of my relationship with God as I would get to play music and lead other people in these songs and just kind of forget about that. I was up there.
I always felt very insecure to be in front of people because of my size. And I just never felt like I belonged in front of people. However, worship would give me an opportunity to disappear and still do what I love. I love to play music. I love the Lord and I love to sing to God. But then in worshipping God corporately, I could sort of tell the group of people that I was with, “Hey, you know, let’s close our eyes and let’s focus on Jesus.” And that would give space for my insecurity. But it also would allow me to use my giftings as well.
“I just never felt like I belonged in front of people. However, worship would give me an opportunity to disappear and still do what I love.” – Mike Weaver
I developed early on the ability to use self-deprecating humor to kind of keep people at bay, to like, beat them to the punch. I mean, I could remember doing that in elementary school, as early as that, to me to put me in control of the situation. I figured they were probably laughing about me on the inside. So I’m going to say the thing that they were probably thinking, so I could turn it into a joke and they’d be laughing with me instead of just at me, you know? I always thought that that was a type of humility, this self-deprecating thing, realizing the things that weren’t right about you.
God Shows Me What’s Good About Me
I was sharing with you that I felt really at home in our home and I felt really at home in church. But when I would go in any other setting, man, I did not feel very at home at all. In fact, I didn’t even feel at home in my own skin growing up in elementary school. I didn’t know how to give voice to this for a long time. But it dawned on me, you know, into my twenties and into my thirties that I would perceive how I thought people were accepting me. And if I felt like you liked me, then I would give myself permission to like me. But if I thought that you didn’t like me, I would point out to myself everything that you probably didn’t like about me. I would focus on those things and I wouldn’t like me.
So it was dawning on me the way I thought other people were accepting me is how I was able to accept me. The way I thought other people were liking me is how I gave myself permission to like me.
Then I uncovered a deeper level of that and just simplified the entire thing, and finally just found the voice to say, “It’s because I don’t like me. I hate me.” I hated the way that looked. You know, because I’m overweight. And I wanted to look like someone else always. I always thought that someone else’s giftings were greater. And I would appreciate their giftings, but I would be unable to see the gifts that God had put in me. When I would walk into a room, I would kind of gauge the situation, you know. Is this a place where I feel like other people are accepting me? Then I can be at peace. And if it’s not, then, you know, I’ve got to probably get out of here as quickly as I can, because I can’t stand that thing because I don’t like myself. I hate myself.
“The way I thought other people were accepting me is how I was able to accept me. The way I thought other people were liking me is how I gave myself permission to like me.” – Mike Weaver
I remember a time when the self-hatred became so overwhelmingly bad, and it really kind of coincided when I was finally able to give voice to say that “I hate me.” And there was this morning when I was right down in this, like, literally several feet away from where I’m speaking to you right now in my garage, I remember I’d come down to do some exercise. And I remember the feeling of the cold concrete of the garage on my bare leg. I was wearing shorts and I’m sitting on the floor. And I literally was so not okay with me, I was telling God this long list of things that I hated about myself. You know, I had this huge list, and then that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit interrupted my self-hating party in the middle of our garage floor. And I’m telling you, I heard Him as clearly as I’ve ever heard Him just say, “Michael, why don’t you let Me tell you what I think about you for once?”
“I was telling God this long list of things that I hated about myself, and then that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit interrupted: ‘Michael, why don’t you let Me tell you what I think about you for once?'” – Mike Weaver
And man, in that moment, the Holy Spirit just began to flood my heart and my mind with stuff that He likes about me, not just that He loves me, you know, but that He likes about me. He started by just saying this, He just said, “I like the way that you smile.” And you know what? It was so crazy—that sounds like a weird way to start. But it was something that for me I could agree with Him about because in pictures, I always liked the way that my smile was.
And in that moment He just began to love on me and just fill my heart and mind with stuff that I could agree with Him about, that I liked about me. He’s like, “I like your sense of humor. I like your heart for people.” It was so wonderful. And in that moment, He just showed me as much as He told me. He just said that, “For Me to think this way about you and for you to think something different than I do about you is like telling Me I don’t know what I’m talking about.” And the thing is, there’s a prerequisite about being God. You know, when You say something, it’s right. You know, You’re always right. When You’re God, You’re always right.
“I Am Redeemed”
So that was the beginning of a new part of my journey, which really led to the writing of this I Am Redeemed book was, Well God, what do You say about me? What do You say about this situation? Well, then, me too. And just humbling myself in that way and just saying, Well, God, I just want to be in a place of agreement with You. And then, man, things go so much more smoothly when that happens, when we can concede and we can just come into that place.
I can see Him everywhere. His grace is so evident, you know. His presence is so real, even in the middle of COVID-19, even in the middle of all these crazy things. It just feels like somebody took the glass of life or whatever, just turned it upside down. I can see Him day by day by day, moment by moment by moment, when I back up and just say, “God, what is it that You’re doing?” Because He’s not inactive. He’s not inactive. He didn’t answer my question. Why, why, why? But He showed me what He’s doing. You know, even when the enemy brings about his killing and stealing and destruction, God is a redeemer, and God is restoring. God is a healer, and God is a comforter.
I’ve always wanted to have some kind of testimony where I did a really great job for God, you know? And that’s never been what testimony. My testimony is just kind of just failed miserably. And then Jesus came in and He bailed me out again. He did it again. He broke through for me. And he always is the hero of my story. And so I was just like, “God, how amazing that You can bring this out of self-hatred. That’s how great of a Redeemer You are.”
“Jesus came in and He bailed me out again. He always is the hero of my story. And so I was just like, ‘God, how amazing that You can bring this [song] out of self-hatred. That’s how great of a Redeemer You are.’” – Mike Weaver, on the success of his song “Redeemed”
And we’ve experienced Him as those things because of what we had been through. You know, I mean, God never ceased to be any of those things. But we saw who He is in a personal way because of Him showing up in the midst of the struggle, in light of the fact that there had been something hurt in our life. You know, we find Him in those places because He comes running to need, you know. [The Bible] says we can boldly approach the throne of grace, that we can find grace in a time of need, in our time of need. And we have experienced Him such incredible ways in that place of need, realizing, Jesus, we need You.
“We have experienced Him in such incredible ways in that place of need, realizing, Jesus, we need You.” – Mike Weaver
Man, I am a Jesus Calling iPhone app reading individual, I’m telling you. And my mom, who is a recent [widow] in the last few years—my dad went home to be with the Lord—seeing my mom deal with this life without her best friend for these for this next season of life. I cannot tell you how many phone conversations start with, “Did you read Jesus Calling today?” When she calls me, both of us have the same kind of experience that when we read it, we’re like, “Now how did [Sarah Young] know how today was going to be?” And, you know, obviously Sarah doesn’t know that. But Sarah’s offering and Sarah’s obedience to the Lord is used so often in just hearing His voice in that special way that she represents in Jesus Calling. And so it’s amazing when you open it up and you read whatever today’s [passage] is, you’re like, “Gosh, it’s like somebody is reading my mail here.” You know, the Lord just knows.
I talk to lots of people, lots of friends and lots of family, who have that same experience who were super, super thankful for how the Lord continues to use Jesus Calling in our lives on a nearly daily basis.
And God says this, He says, “If you draw near to Me, then I’ll draw near to you.” When we do that, when we take the time to do that, we can gain heaven’s perspective when we spend the time in God’s word. And receive who it is that He says we are because of who He is, then that can be the perspective of heaven in our life. That is the perspective that God has. Right? And He wants us to come up higher and see things the way He sees. And He’s inviting us into that place, you know.
The entire point is that when God looks at us, He’s not looking at our mistakes. He is looking at what Jesus has done on our behalf and our identity. Our entire identity is rooted in not our imperfection, but the perfection of Jesus Christ applied to our life. That is the gospel.
“When God looks at us, He’s not looking at our mistakes. He is looking at what Jesus has done on our behalf and our identity. Our entire identity is rooted in not our imperfection, but the perfection of Jesus Christ applied to our life.” – Mike Weaver
Narrator: You can find Mike Weaver’s new book, I Am Redeemed, wherever you buy books.
Stay tuned to Dr. Merritt’s story after a brief message.
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Narrator: In a culture ruled by social media snapshots and snappy sound bites, we’re often more concerned with our image than anything else. But pastor and author James Merritt has learned that image isn’t everything. Because what will give us more fulfillment than anything else is developing a strong sense of character and the courage to stand up for a faith we truly believe in.
James Merritt: Well, my name is James Merritt, I am a pastor here in Atlanta, Georgia. I pastor Cross Pointe Church. And have been married for over four decades to my beautiful wife, Teresa, we have three sons and four wonderful grandchildren. And we have a TV ministry called Touching Lives. It’s nationwide and around the world. And I’m really glad to be on the program today.
I had one dream growing up. I wanted to be a lawyer from the time I was five until the week before I graduated from college. I tell people I didn’t want to save people, I wanted to sue people. The week before I graduated, I had actually taken the Law School Admission Test and blown it out. But there was no joy. There was no excitement. There was no thrill. And the past three summers I had worked as a minister of youth at three different churches and never sought a position either time. So I went back to my room and I was trying to wonder, Why am I not excited? This is what you’ve been dreaming for, this is what you worked toward.
And I just got on my knees and I just really said, “Lord, I do not want to go into the ministry. I’ve never had that desire. But I do want to do your will for my life. And if that is your will for my life, I’m willing to do it.” A peace came over my heart that surpasses all understanding. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt as much as I knew I was saved that that’s what God wanted me to do. And so here we are.
Character Still Counts
To tell you a little bit about the book, the title of it is Character Still Counts. At the end of the day, at the end of your life, character is everything.
“At the end of the day, at the end of your life, character is everything.” – James Merritt
Think about—let’s say for example, you’re going to hire someone in your company and it’s a key position and the fate of your company is going to rest with the person that you hire, just think of it that way. If you knew that person would be a person of integrity, honesty, humility, loyalty, respect, authenticity, generosity, courage, perseverance, self-control, forgiveness and faithfulness—if you knew that that person would demonstrate on a daily consistent basis all of those traits, there’s not enough money in the world to pay someone like that. You can’t put a price on that kind of an employee or that kind of a boss.
Character is not taught, it’s caught. And the best teachers of character are parents. Dwight L. Moody, the great evangelist who is kind of the Billy Graham of the nineteenth century, he said, “If you want to know what kind of dad you are, don’t look at your kids, look at your grandkids, and that tells you all you need to know.” So I really believe that the place where character begins is not even in the church. It’s not in the school. It’s in the home.
“Character is not taught, it’s caught. And the best teachers of character are parents.” – James Merritt
Today, our culture values reputation more than character. And it’s more about what people think you are and what you can get people to think you are than what God knows you are and what you really know that you are. My character, by the way, every day your character’s tested some way. Somehow it’s always going to be tested. And so every day you’ve got to just get up with this intentionality. I know today, someway, somehow I’m going to give it up. I’m going to have an opportunity to demonstrate character.
And so I think it all begins with saying, “You know what? Character is more important to me than my reputation. It really is the essence of who I am. People are always watching. Most importantly, God’s always knowing. So just for today, whenever my character is on the line, I’m going to make sure it’s never compromised.”
“I think it all begins with saying, ‘You know what? Character is more important to me than my reputation. It really is the essence of who I am.’” – James Merritt
It Takes Intention to Cultivate Character
You’ve got to be intentional every day. You know, at the end of the day, you did what you intended to do. You may not have done what you thought you’re going to do. You may not have done what you put on your to-do list. But I can tell you, we all do at the end of the day what we want to do. So if you didn’t read your Bible, you can say whatever you want to say, because you didn’t want to read your Bible. If you didn’t spend time with the Lord, [it’s] because you didn’t want to spend time with the Lord.
And I think the same thing is true about character. I think that what we have to do every day is just get up with the intentionality for today.
Seek to please Me above all else. As you journey through today, there will be many choice-points along your way. Most of the day’s decisions will be small ones you have to make quickly. You need some rule of thumb to help you make good choices. Many people’s decisions are a combination of their habitual responses and their desire to please themselves or others. This is not My way for you. Strive to please Me in everything, not just in major decisions. This is possible only to the extent that you are living in close communion with Me. When My Presence is your deepest delight, you know almost instinctively what will please Me. A quick glance at Me is all you need to make the right choice. Delight yourself in Me more and more; seek My pleasure in all you do.
And so the thing I would just say is, you know, at the end of your life, it won’t matter, it really won’t matter what anybody thought about you. The only thing that will matter is what God knew about you.
“At the end of your life, it really won’t matter what anybody thought about you. The only thing that will matter is what God knew about you.” – James Merritt
Narrator: You can find Dr. Merritt’s book, Character Still Counts, wherever books are sold.
If you’d like to hear more stories about seeing yourself how God sees you, check out our interview with Chelsea Crockett.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we talk with Pastor Sheryl Brady from The Potter’s House Church, where she does ministry with lead pastor and founder Bishop T.D. Jakes. Pastor Brady has traveled all over the world and has been a featured speaker for Women of Faith and many other conferences. A believer that we all can live a full life guided by God, Sheryl has written a book called Don’t Miss the Moment, where she talks about how we can catch the “God moments” in our lives more intentionally.
Sheryl Brady: I feel like so many times we underestimate and we undervalue the moments that God has given us. Moments are small enough to be missed. And yet they are big enough that one minute can change your life forever. We miss God moments because our attention is on grand moments.