For those of you who read me regularly, you know we recently celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary. When I was writing my post on leftover wedding gifts, I got going on a ramble I hadn’t thought about for many years.
It shows once again how GOD works in all our stories, but often not in the ways we expect or always want at the time.
The story GOD is writing in each of our lives probably won’t be neat. It will result in growth in areas we don’t seek out. He will be stretching and pushing in places we didn’t want. But when we look back, it will be a better story than we could have dreamed!
If you are anything like me, you want a nice neat story. But if you look back at the stories of GOD’s dealings with His people in the Old Testament, you’ll notice that they are quite personal but messy and windy. He also doesn’t seem to mind showing the back side of people. He definitely isn’t into making even the heroes look perfect!
GOD rarely works in the neat, tidy ways we think we would like. Instead, the stories tend to have all kinds of little nooks and crannies…you know, those things that look like detours? But in stories, isn’t it the twists and turns that make the story interesting rather than the neat and predictable?
In the Christian life, we also have events that are there to teach us all kinds of stuff and develop character and backbone that we need. They are not lessons and qualities that we seek out or think of as important. But GOD has a way of prioritizing quickly when certain circumstances come along! I don’t care, for example, if I ever learn anything about being patient or humble. But GOD does.
I don’t think of myself as being humble…at all! Let me say that right now. But GOD has put me through plenty of life experiences that were both humbling and humiliating…and have worked to bring some humility in me.
Am I humble? Not at all! That is so NOT me! But without humbling and humiliating experiences, I would be more arrogant than anyone would be able to bear…honestly!
Am I patient? Not naturally. Any patience in me has been learned through lots and lots of waiting and lots of trying circumstances…to say nothing of children who at times “pushed my buttons” and caused me to ask, “Why am I overreacting?”, “What is going on here?” at the nudging of the Spirit.
Not because I wanted to change really. I just wanted peace. But in the end, I knew no one else would change. I had to be the mom and change. GOD’s Spirit gave me tiny glimmers of the desire to change and energized me in tiny moments to change enough to give grace to my children sometimes.
This isn’t meant to be discouraging or disheartening. I am majorly stubborn. For GOD to give me the desire to change anything, ever. It is a miracle! You have no idea!
When you go from being missionaries to looking for a job in the pastorate, you eat up a lot of time.
There is no cushion. It can easily take 9 months before one church can make up their mind…even if you are applying to be on their staff! Of course, Ron was applying to more than one church at a time, but still… To add to the complications, we were changing denominations so that added more time to the process.
While we were in Jamaica, a new denomination had been formed, so the one he was a member of was not the one he wanted to join. He just had to be part of a church in order to join it!
Church search committees looked over our lives and past decisions with microscopes. There is a place for asking why a person made a certain decision about a specific school you attended of course, but 20-22 years after the fact is no time to go over that decision and hold their choice against them! That is where they went as they sought GOD for guidance. Asking what was their thought process is good. But unless it was rebellious, and not repented of, holding it against them? What can they do about it now?
It made sense at the time. You might not agree with that decision, but it is so easy to look from the easy armchair of the present on a past decision and decide what the “right” one was to make! No, he might not make the same decision today either, but today isn’t when he was making that choice!
Look at the 20 years of ministry since they went to seminary. He was now a 40 year old man! What had he done? Where did he do it? What characterized his ministry? It seemed that many had difficulty thinking outside of the box in terms of skills/gifts this person needed doing the kinds of ministry he did cross-culturally and seeing the positive parallels in the church for that kind of experience.
The other area that was important was who their friends were. Of course, that often had to do with who they went to seminary with and there was a whole new group of guys from a new seminary that didn’t even exist when Ron went to seminary. He knew quite a few of them from presbytery, but it wasn’t the same as a friendship from seminary.
So I went to work…nursing is much easier to find temporary jobs than Ron’s was. When the time started getting long I worked 3-11PM in a nearby hospital. My dream of being home to care for my new baby (6 weeks old when we returned from Jamaica) was not to be. She was now about 4 or 5 months old and money was running out! Churches weren’t interested in us at all. We had to do something!
Ron decided to use his time wisely and finish his D.Min. project (the course work was done). He kept applying and interviewing for jobs…and being told he was too___ or too___ for the position he was applying for…often the opposite extreme would be the problem!
And even this degree turned into a negative! The extra work and time he took from a seminary that was more “acceptable”? No one seemed to notice because if their senior pastor didn’t have a doctorate, it was a negative!
Ron could have cared less! Degrees weren’t a big thing to him. He admired the accomplishments of some of the men he was wanting to serve under and knew he could learn so much from them. But the pulpit committes…and maybe some of the pastors too? were stuck.
And so were we…a family with 3 young children…wanting to serve GOD. We felt like we were truly in the desert!
One friend stuck his neck out to help us during this time
One friend was very helpful during that time. Ron had known him in presbytery since before we went to Jamaica. He tried to help us get into a work in Jacksonville, FL near him. After months, that all fell apart and did not work out for reasons that none of us could control!
A year or so later, he was in another church in St. Louis and wanted Ron on his staff. Ron went to candidate there…and got laryngitis! I think it has happened maybe 2 times in his life! He preached in a whisper over the microphone!
Later the choices were narrowed down and we both went on the candidate trip. We looked at houses, then flew home. We thought our long nightmare might be over!
I don’t know the details. The congregation voted and there was a scene evidently. I only know that other problems and complaints against the pastor came up and his choice of a staff member was voted down. It was not a good meeting. It would have been a bad situation. It was a devastating disappointment and a very low time for us.
(to be continued on Tuesday)
Are you in the desert?
Are you without a clue as to what GOD is trying to teach you?
This is the time when you learn to trust Him. That is what faith is. Trusting Him when you have no clue what He is up to! I don’t say these words lightly.
I’m writing this almost 40 years after the fact. I have some perspective now. Of course, I still remember and feel some of the pain. Interestingly, I remember almost none of the people…except those who were kind and showed us respect as human beings. They stood out like shining lights! Those are the people I remember regardless of their “theology.” It was so awkward for me because I’m really big on theology.
But I was hurt over and over again by people who supposedly had a wonderful theology and it was by the way they treated my husband as a person. Of course, I would have hurt myself doubly if I would have stewed in my own resentment. Some of you may still see it here. But the fact that I can’t even remember who the people were that I felt hurt by at the time indicates to me that GOD brought much healing.
Caution: Are you one of those who is in leadership and is more concerned about theogical correctness (a very good thing!) rather than relationships? (you don’t know how to do them or how to relate to other pastors…or even to understand their importance in relation to theology and facts!)
I hope you will hear my heart. I hope you will hear how your decisions affect the wives of good men in ministry. Of how not only your decisions, but your attitudes, words and behavior affect not only them, but their wives.
I didn’t set out to write this post in this way. It ended up in a way I didn’t anticipate. But here it is.