It occurred to me that it’s been nearly four years since I posted here regularly, so perhaps I owe any new readers (as well as my previous audience, if any of you are still here) a brief overview of where I went and what I was doing during that interval. If this is not of interest, feel free to move on to something else, I won’t mind at all.
I had been a member of a small Southern Baptist church for several years; we began suffering from transition woes in 2012-13. I served as acting pastor and full-time preacher for several months, until we voted to merge with the Spanish church who rented our facilities on our off-times, and “their” pastor became “our” pastor. I had hoped to continue in my role, understandably to a lesser degree, and had in fact been promised as much during discussions leading up to the vote. When it came to actual practice, however, I found myself replaced by his staff; if I am to be honest, it wounded my pride and my sense of self-worth to be told I wasn’t needed any more. It didn’t help when the new pastor began going back on many other things he had promised, changing the focus and direction of the church in ways that I could not support, and it didn’t take long for us to simply stop going. My wife and I visited a few other churches, looking for a “new home”, but that too dwindled away. I was so busy with work and my new infatuation with running, and it was easy to fall away from corporate worship and church activities.
I maintained my writing on a different blog, focused on my training and experiences as I prepared to run my first marathon, but Christian ministry never left my thoughts. I continued to serve with Kairos Prison Ministry, and at a Christian halfway house where I had helped begin a weekly prayer-and-share meeting, but I wanted more…I wanted to be a pastor and/or preacher. I enrolled in an online seminary program, and prayed for an opportunity to put my gifts to use; as it turns out, I was totally unprepared for that prayer to be answered…God has a habit of calling us on our bullshit, doesn’t He? Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it!
One of my partners in the new prayer-and-share called me one night, and offered me the position of administrator/pastor at a different halfway house in Conroe, where the need was great. The position included my wife, free room and board on-site, and sufficient salary for normal expenses…but did not include health insurance. This was just as Karen was finishing radiation treatment for breast cancer (she had already finished chemo) but we had ongoing prescription expenses and aftercare to deal with; we also still faced (though we did not know it at the time) genetic testing and a complete hysterectomy to head off the near certainty of ovarian/uterine cancer in the future. In any case, after painful deliberation and prayer, we elected to pass on this opportunity, with me remaining at my job and retaining the all-important health insurance.
I cannot second-guess that decision now; I am distant enough to have forgotten the emotions of the moment. It was not long after, however, that I began to feel guilty for trusting in the job and the insurance, and NOT trusting in the Lord too provide for all our needs; I felt I had disqualified myself for service due to a lack of faith. I allowed this guilt to pollute my relationship with God, to come between me and Him in a way that prevented me from doing anything else. I stopped seeking opportunities to serve, to stop looking for a new church home…to just stop. And that state of affairs pretty much remained since then..
I lost the job about two years later, and with it the insurance and financial security. Karen had achieved full remission, but we were no longer able to afford the medications recommended for breast-cancer survivors. In fact, even with the ACA, we have been uninsured since then, and I give full credit to God’s grace and faithfulness that she has remained healthy nonetheless. The guilt has faded, but not the desire to serve, somewhere, somehow…I only needed to find a trigger. I did, finally, but it took several parts to come together to make the whole.
Next post, I will talk about how those parts and pieces came together, and how I learned to recognize the voice of the Spirit, quietly but steadily urging me back into relationship and back into service. In doing so, I hope that I encourage at least one person out there-some man or woman who has been listening to their doubts more than to God. If you are that person, I pray that you will find your trigger, that you will realize that being done with God does not mean that He is done with you. I pray that you will read my story all the way through, and recognize that if He can love me enough to wait for me, He can love you enough as well.
It’s the truth, I promise…come and see.