Thursday, March 7, 2013

Hope

  Time's up

    Let me get personal for a little bit. It's been almost 10 months since I left my last church. 10 months of sending resumes out, going to interviews, and repeating the cycle over and over almost daily. When I reached the decision to leave, it was the toughest one I'd ever had to make, because everything was going well. I would say that it was my dream position, I had a great team of leaders, a clear vision, good attendance numbers, the support of the board and pastoral staff, the backing of most of the parents and I love those kids. After 5 years, it was time to go.

 So why leave? well, I strongly felt that the Lord was saying to me that I had done what He wanted me to do there. Believe me, I hoped that someone would say something different but every person I consulted or asked to pray for me came back with the same out come. I knew this was the Lord because He was asking me to give up one of the most precious things in my life, something I had worked very hard to build. This was not a trade, He had not guaranteed me something better, nor was there any new opportunity waiting for me. This is a test of faith.

Great plans of mice and men

   In my mind, I had it all figured out. I would leave, then wait a couple of months then a new opportunity would be presented to me and I would continue serving God in another congregation. It seemed so laughably easy, and quick... That's what I thought anyways; However, that was not what things looked like in God's mind. I had no idea that it would be 10 months of waiting, praying, bare bones budgeting, using up most of my savings, feeling continually frustrated at the lack of interest in my services from any church I applied to. This frustration wore me out, it drove me to a sense of deep despair and constant questioning my decision. There was no going back.

   Fear crept into my heart, as the weeks turned into months, but just as I was feeling really low I received some interviews and then offered a position in 2 different churches, which excited me, but when I prayed whether or not to accept either of them, after all, that was the plan right? Nope. Wrong again! I prayed and The Lord's answer was a simple "not yet."... two words... two words was all it took to close those doors. Again, I sought a way to ignore those two words and move on from this purgatory I'd been placed in. I looked hard for an excuse to get back in the game and minister again, but all I got was another "not yet." so I reluctantly obeyed and turned both positions down. So much for the grand plan! my grand plan.

Looking Back

  It took a while, but I've finally reached a point in all this waiting where I stopped complaining and whining, and started to listen. I started to hear and see why God has me waiting at this point in my life. I don't have it all figured out, but just enough to give me hope. Looking back I now see that in 12 years of ministry I had never taken any time off, I took holidays, yes, but simply because I was forced to, time off was an annoyance to me and I kept working in my mind. I was soul weary, physically and mentally exhausted. Stress was my driving force and I was doing things out of sheer skill rather than with a heart full of the Holy Spirit.

 I had become arrogant in my own self, I stopped caring about the people in my ministry and was more concerned with results and pleasing people. Honestly, I had gotten so bad, I started to dread every time a youth event, practice or teaching time was scheduled. I dreaded seeing the students that were the reason I was there and had the joy of serving. I became focused on doing things for God rather than being with Him, and my spiritual side was growing more and more feeble and sick, yet I refused to see. Keeping the right appearance had replaced my passion. I was done. I'd fought for so long I had nothing left and had even forgotten why I was fighting. It all became a boring chore.

  So, God, the great physician of the soul, the grand commander of Heaven's armies engineered some much needed rest and some open soul surgery. Success in ministry had, to my shame, led to pride growing dangerously large in my soul. It had spread to the point where I didn't rely on God any more. Prayer was mechanical and always with an agenda in mind, bible study became a daily ritual rather than soul developing exercise. I was setting my self, the youth I loved and the church I served on a path to derailment. Who knows what horrible thing God kept me from doing or causing. I don't want to know, and I'm thankful I wont ever have to find out.

God had to remove my authority as a leader and bring me back to being a servant. I was king of a throne that wasn't mine and God reminded me of who truly is King. He took it all away for my own good, to give me rest from the pressure of my own burden, to restore the health of my soul and to reequip and resupply me for when He sends me back into battle. I abdicated, He was enthroned and peace was restored.

Here Comes the Hope

  I wish I could tell you that I have a new position, but Lo, I'm still waiting for that promise. The Lord is closer to me now, I don't feel alone or tired anymore. I've been helping out as a volunteer at the church I'm attending where I've learned so much in such a short time. I'm enjoying not having total responsibility and seeing ministry from the angle of a volunteer, an angle I had not experienced in a very long time! I've rediscovered the passion I had when God called me into ministry.

  Im gaining tools and new skills that will help me be a better leader in the future. I've even discovered new gifts, such as, I enjoy writing (hence the blog), not only do I enjoy doing it (I find it therapeutic) but perhaps there is someone out there who maybe helped by what I've written. I pray and fast more just because I want to be closer to my Lord. I read my bible with wonder and marvel at how old things are new again. The Lord has even provided enough to pay the bills! I've had the opportunity to have deep conversations with my mom which I never had time for before or I was too tired to listen to and now I feel like we understand each other better. I've learned so much about my family that I know one day I'll appreciate even more, plus we laugh more.

 And so, dear reader, though I don't know where or who you are, or what your situation is I want you to remember that there is always Hope. God never takes away something from us unless He needs to. I've discovered that having faith in Him is not to be based on what He can give you as a replacement for what He asked you to surrender, but rather faith in God is to be based on the fact the He is: He is on your side, He is with you, and He is your purpose. The blessings He bestows upon us are just perks, proofs that our faith is growing in quality. God has never been unfaithful with His promises, and just because they do not come to pass when we plan for them to happen, our hope comes not from the promise, but from the one who made the promise. 

   If you are going through something similar to the journey I'm on or perhaps are being led down this path, take heart! Be strong and obey what God asks for you to do! Trust that He knows what He is doing and remember in God there is always an never ending abundance of HOPE.