Several years back, I was an associate pastor in a church. I was mostly a student minister, but I had several other responsibilities. I had been in student ministry for about 12 years at that point, and to be honest, for several years before that, I had felt God calling me to something different, but it scared me to death, so I just kept doing what I had always known – it was easy, I had a routine, I got results.
The real reason that I didn’t pursue what God was calling me to do was because of something in my past. What I didn’t know at the time was, the past was about to massively pile up on me and bring about a wilderness experience that would last the next 5 years.
It goes back to 1994. I had just resigned from my first church, and was in the process of being divorced from my first wife. There’s a lot to tell about that, and I may do it at some other point. Suffice it to say we were both in the wrong. Maybe I was more wrong. I don’t know. All I knew is that if I were to ever get married again, I would do it differently.
Fast forward several years to the already mentioned staff position, I was married, had a sweet little daughter, and was miserable. I hadn’t learned anything, really. I didn’t allow healing to occur from that past trauma. I never talked to anyone about it, and I brought all that into the present.
One day, during a staff meeting at my church, the pastor announced he was firing several staff people, including me. He said he wanted a fresh start with new people. So I packed up and left, and started sending out resumes. So I could start the cycle all over again. But God had a different plan.
I had a lot of interviews at some pretty amazing churches, and in many instances, it came down between me and some other person. They always chose the other person. I started sending my resume out to smaller churches. I was thinking they would be thinking they would be getting a bargain – someone with my experience, willing to work for close to nothing. Most of them never even called me back. Over qualified maybe? Or God’s plan?
Somewhere along the way we tried a church plant, which went well until it didn’t. Then we ended up at a totally different church – hurt, confused, scared, alone.
During those years, I turned and ran from God, from what He was trying to teach me. I didn’t want to hear it. I wanted familiar, I wanted safe, I wanted things to be like they were before. But they couldn’t be. I had been hurt too deeply, and to be honest, in my last church staff experience, I was basically limping along, relying on my own strength.
But this new church – it was something different. Something special. Exactly what I needed and exactly where God wanted me and my family, so that we could learn who God really is, what He is really like, how He really feels about us.
Two years later I am a totally different person. I am being healed. I am seeing how my past failures, hurts, sins can be redeemed. What I learned is, God doesn’t want to use me, he wants to know me. He wants me to know Him and trust Him and He wants me to run to Him and seek shelter in Him and rely on Him for everything. I’m learning to do that, and He has given me my ministry, but in a totally unexpected way.
Do I still want to work for a church – yes! Will I be able to? I believe so. Am I ready? I believe so! Am I scared? Yes. Yes I am. But I am going to take that step, resting in Him, and I will trust Him to put me where He wants me, so that my past can be redeemed in my present, so that the future of others can be wrapped in His grace.
What have you not trusted God with? What from your past is eating away your present? And how can you learn to give all that to the only One who can purchase the terrible things that have happened and give you a beautiful future in exchange?