Friday night. It was late as I drove home - and dark. The rain was pounding on my windshield. And as I drove - I wept. I wept at what has been, and what is no longer. It has been an interesting day. Began with a wonderful coffee at a dear friends house. The day was full. I have been thinking alot lately about friendships. About assumptions. About expectations. I realize that when I was in ministry, I assumed I needed to care for others. I loved doing that - and I believe I can still care for people - you don't need a title to do that! (thank you God!)
When we lost our grandson and began our walk through grief. I assumed that others would care for us. There were a few surprises along the way. And hurt (besides the obvious loss) I think mainly because it was too painful for others to step into our pain. I think I get it. I think this has helped me and will help me in the future to step into other peoples pain. I think this will have an "avenue" within our women's ministry God is bringing to fruition.
When I gave my notice as a pastor, I wasn't prepared for what would happen... and for what would not happen. Yes, that is a very vague statement. You can read between the lines, and I will gladly have coffee with you and share my story. I knew that I needed to resign. God made that very very clear. But, like I said - parts of the journey since - I wasn't expecting. There was some pretty great hurt that I had to keep pushing back and trying to focus on the times of great joy within ministry. Guess hurt and pain is to be expected even within church right? Afterall the church IS full of broken people - and full of "human" beings.
I think it was on the Spiderman movie I heard this said (think the saying went something like this) "with great power comes great responsibility". Yep - I agree. I agree that "pastoring" is one of those positions that can have both great power but more so great responsibility - to minister in the way God intended.
I have come to realize that the title "pastor" opened up "doors" ... I also realize that with the title comes great responsibility. (unfortunately I have also seen where there is a fine line between the "power" and "abuse of the power"... yep even within christian ministry this can happen). I have wondered over the past year - how many people expected more from me when I was in the position. I have wondered how many people felt uncared for. I have wondered how many people came and went and were never followed up. I also hope that there are people who perhaps God allowed me to touch their lives and share His love with. I know there were people whom I had the privilege of praying with. There were those who I was able to bring a meal to - or to visit in the hospital.
(O Lord - I hope I ministered the way you wanted me to pastor. I hope that people felt your love, your grace, your mercy and could smell your fragrance through my life. That is my prayer.)
There are many things I miss. Mostly I miss people. I miss visitation. I miss the kids hugs (although today I got to care for two kids who continue to call me "pastor Joy"). I miss being part of the "caring" that happens within the ministry of a church. I assumed that is what my pastoral role was about... and decided that would be how I functioned within my role. I would care for, love on, pray for, walk alongside, encourage, support, listen, cry with, laugh with and be there for whomever God brought to mind, to heart, into my office or across the prayer line. I assumed that this was what I was to do... and with God's help, I believe I did my best.
So why have I been thinking about this lately. Mainly because I have felt like "1 of a congregation of 500" and I just can't do that... and all of a sudden - I understand those who I knew "were falling through the cracks" so to speak. I know - I know. This is vague. This is full of perhaps confusing sentences. All that being said, I know we are not to forsake the "meeting together of saints" "or gathering of believers"... HOWEVER I am realizing that happens around the table over cups of coffee, in a living room at a friends house, or around a campfire. If I am told that I am one of 500, it doesn't give me a warm fuzzy feeling. It makes me feel well, like 1 of 500. But if I can share my heart over a cup of coffee or hold the hand of a friend while we pray... if I can make a meal for someone who needs it, or open the word and discuss it with a friend, then I am gathering with believers.
All I know is - living my life has to look the same at 10 pm Wednesday as it does 10 am Sunday morning. All I know is that living a life for Jesus Christ is not just sitting in a pew for an hour a week - even if it is the best speaker the church has ever heard. All I know is that "worship" is more than just singing two hymns and 3 choruses or vice versa. Worship is about living fully and bringing honor and glory to God - and coming before Him in awe and reverence.
All I know is that in the past almost 2 years, I have been stretched, challenged and changed.
All I know is that with out Jesus as Lord of my life, and without the Holy Spirit leading within... I would be nothing.
It feels like He has "stripped away" alot in my life, and has continued to show me that HE has to be Lord... I don't get it all - never will - but I will trust him. I don't understand why many of my "friends" I had when I was in pastoral ministry - never call, or return calls, or why it feels strained with some of them. I guess you realize that sometimes people no longer want to be friends when you are out of the position. That to me has been a very hard realization.
Maybe all this is just like I said - the stripping away - perhaps was necessary for God to show me what I would need when I begin to provide retreat space for women!
Stripping away. Refining me. Skimming off the dross so to speak. Doing what HE needs to do, to make me what HE desires me to be... almost two years later - He is still stripping off... whittling down... and washing away the stuff with my tears! Go figure! I am (even at 52) still a "work in process!" (now doesn't that just make you want to smile!)
It is all about you Jesus... all about you. (I was just impressed again with Psalm 139)
I never know what will cause me to go through these periods of deep reflection. Sometimes there is something that instigates it - or stirs it up. I realize that while I am "changing" - there is still alot of the process left! (O Lord, continue to be my strength in all ways!)
Just thought of a song that I used to sing when I was in a band...
"I will serve thee,
You have given life to me.
I was nothing before you found me
You have given life to me.
ruined lives are why you died on Calvary
is what I longed for
you have given life to me."