The Door That Closed
This is my first pastorate, but over the years I have served as a children’s minister, a youth minister, and an associate pastor. My ministry has had it’s ups and downs, but my last church was possibly the lowest. I was associate pastor and youth minister of a decent sized church. The senior pastor was a mentor to me. The deacons were loving and wise men. I, on the other hand, was a fool. I had followed after a great youth pastor, and to my disadvantage I always tried to be better than he was. I worked myself ragged to try and please everyone. To be fair, I did a lot of good things. I felt at the time that my desire was to bring God glory by my ministry. I thought my greatest desire was to see the youth mature in their faith. Only in hindsight do I recognise that I was always working to get out from under the shadow of the former youth minister. I did so at the cost of my family.
While I served this church, my wife and I had our first child. She was dealing with what we later discovered was undiagnosed Bi-Polar disorder coupled with postpartum depression. Instead of prioritising my family in this time I prioritised my ministry. I would spend time with my family, as long as I didn’t receive a text from a parent or youth, as long as I wasn’t consumed with anxiety over this situation or that. In reality I had dropped the ball for caring for my wife. It nearly cost me my marriage, and my ministry was lost at this church. The staff and deacons were loving and caring for my family in this time. Though I had to step down from the church, they helped us find help for my wife and continued to pay me for several months.
They say that when God shuts one door another door opens. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. In fact, I think sometimes God shuts every door and lets us stand in the hallway. It’s in these hallway when we are tested. It was in this time in my life that God drew me back to himself, and taught me to care for my family. During this time I continued to meditate on Ephesians 5:25-33
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
I realized that the love I had offered my wife at this point in our marriage was secondary to the love I had for myself. I didn’t love her as my own flesh. As a matter of fact, I resented her quiet a bit. As my wife sought help from a psychiatrist I learned as much as I could about her disorder. I found out that much of what was causing my bitterness towards my wife was because of her disease. I discovered that I couldn’t love my wife well without appreciating and meditating on the love Christ has for me. Christ’s sacrifice, grace, forgiveness, and mercy, extended to me in love, was the example I needed to follow in my relationship with my wife. Over several months God strengthened our marriage, and we mutually decided that I should try to find a church.
This hallway period of our lives was crucial for God to strengthen us, to prune sins producing bad fruit, and to nurture spiritual disciplines so we could produce good fruit.
A New Door Opened
I hadn’t been looking for a church long before I received a call to fill in for a sick pastor. The church was close to our home, and the people were loving and welcoming. That sunday of filling in turned into 6 months as interim pastor. I continued to serve and minister as the current pastor took time to deal with rather debilitating health conditions. He ultimately decided he needed retire, and the church called me as pastor. I have now been at this church for about a year and a half. I am significantly more aware of their faults, and their strengths. God has used some members here as a balm for our souls. The hurts of our last church have slowly healed, and have been replaced with a deep and abiding love for these people.
As far as my last church goes, reconciliation has been achieved between us for any and all hurts. The pastor and several deacons made the 5 hour trip for my ordination service after I was called as full time pastor here. It was as if I had never ceased in fellowship with them.
It is my utmost desire to shepherd this flock well. Lord willing I will continue to update this blog semi-regularly to talk about my ministry here, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Until then…
Soli Deo Gloria