October 23, 2017

Chronicle of the Journey

Back in the day, many of you counted on me to write about my personal journey. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, almost all of that kind of material has gone into storage or been deleted. Hopefully, this piece will recalibrate us all on the journey, but not cause quite the chaos in my environment as before.

Many of you know the start of this story, but you may find some new things in the retelling.

In April of 06, I felt God instructing me to resign from the church I was serving. It was the church our family called home for a decade. I’d served them for 12 years. I had no idea that it was the end of almost any sense of spiritual “home” at all, and the beginning of a season of much change.

In May of that year, my son left home for college. In June, my daughter married. A few weeks later she would move to another state and temporarily quit college. (She’s graduating OSU in a few days, and I am very, very proud. But at the time, it was tough.)

In July of 06, my mother, who was living with us, came to the breakfast table and started speaking in a confused manner. Fourteen hours later, she was dead.

In September, I turned 50. The empty nest and the second half of life threw the party. I wouldn’t book them if I were you. Those guys are not much fun.

In these months, I was also trying to begin a home worship fellowship with some hope that, within 2-3 years, it might become the early version of a church. I was trying to preserve what my family had loved about worship in our little Presbyterian church and what I was discovering in the emerging tradition.

Despite many good aspects of that effort, it failed and in the summer of 07, I brought it to a tearful and embarrassing end. Two “church” losses in a year was devastating to my sense of having a spiritual home, and I still haven’t recovered.

In the meantime, God and my wife got together and decided that what I really needed was for her to start down the road to joining the Roman Catholic church. Everything my wife knew about Catholicism she’d learned from me, and she had almost no experience with the Roman Catholic church until Lent of 07. God’s directives to her at that time, however, were so clear that she knew she had to follow them despite the obvious consequences on various levels of our relationship and my ministry.

She told me the news, Pandora’s Box was opened and the Harpies took the keys to my life for the next few months.

Today, she’s somewhere in the RCIA journey and recently thanked me for my “support,” because she has been happier this past year than ever in recent memory. I had to laugh, because my “support” came from an experience somewhere between the rack and a 6 month root canal without anesthesia.

I was literally bombed out of my previous understanding of “the way things are supposed to be in a minister’s life.” It was like living through repeated showings of an imploding stadium, and I was the stadium.

Fortunately, God was determined to keep me in the wrestling ring until I yelled “Bless me.” I don’t have to tell you how that turned out, do I? I can now say “Bless me” in several Biblical languages.

I’ve still got an occasional bit of fight left in me, but the new version of my faith is considerably lighter, more Jesus shaped and – you’re going to love this- quite Shack/Greg Boyd influenced. (Oh calm down. I don’t believe everything Greg Boyd believes, but the last few weeks his preaching has been wonderful in its ministry to my confused heart.)

Oh. Did I mention that God and I are talking a LOT more these days, and I’m learning to recognize the voice of Jesus separate from my own head and the soundtrack of all the religious garbage that’s filled my head and heart for decades?

God provided a sabbatical so that I could have 8 weeks to work on the process of getting down to Jesus basics and knowing who I was in the new terrain of my existence. I appreciate it, because I needed (and need) it.

Simultaneously with all of these events, strange things began to happen to me at my job. Exceedingly strange. For instance, I was criticized for writing in my moleskine during sermons and for going to the restroom. All who live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

Nothing you’d find interesting, but plenty to make me wake up every day and wonder if someone is filming a reality show about me, with the premise of changing all my certainties when I’m asleep and then watching the confused reaction. If you see Season One on DVD, I’d like to purchase a copy. Maybe I can laugh at the commercials.

Oh, I thought I needed a friend, so I bought a dog. The dog hates me.

When I talk to Jesus about all this recent history, he says things like “It’s all mercy,” and “The only response is to be a servant,” and “What are you here for?” and “Who are the people who simply suffer and pray? Ever thought about them?” and my favorite “Just let me take care of _______________.”

The genuine Jesus, if you can actually get the station, can really be annoying to your natural survival instincts of blame, self-pity and anger.

You see, I’ve been trained my whole life to think like a pietistic Calvinist. There had to be a REASON for all of this. There has to be a LESSON. I get to ask WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO LEARN? So picture me spending all kinds of mental energy trying to find what was the great lesson at the core of all of this that, when I learned it, would make it all go away.

Riiiiight.

And when I ask what all this means and what I am supposed to learn, Jesus just asks questions back, or says things like “Why don’t you go down that road and see what happens. You’ll never know if you just pout.” Or “Just obey me tomorrow and we’ll find out.”

There doesn’t seem to be some resounding THEME or amazing LESSON. As Greg Boyd says, from my point of view, it just all seems to be hitting the fan. God BRINGS good out of it, but if I want to say that he caused it all (which I still do for lack of any other way to express faith and confusion simultaneously) with some CERTAIN LESSON in mind, I don’t get very far. Like he said, “Go down the road, and you’ll see what’s there.” Kind of God’s version of “When we get there, you’ll know.”

I’m a fifty one year old guy whose days leading churches in his denomination are probably over, whose wife got burned out in the non-existent “spirituality” of 30+ years of Baptist church life and ministry, who has been at his current job long enough for some people to wish he wasn’t, who has been stationed out on the frontier where there are no churches to shop, who spent so many years thinking so many things in his head were scriptural, reformed and right that it really hurts to have to admit he was wrong, wrong and wrong. In that order.

I’m just a guy with a life, and life is full of failure and loss. I wanted MINISTRY to be the ongoing reward. I wanted USEFULNESS to be my satisfaction. I wanted to be SIGNIFICANT. I wanted the contract to be in place and the insurance to protect me because I was the guy with the Bible. Well, that didn’t go very well, did it?

God thought it was time for all that nonsense to stop, and for the lifelong addiction I’d developed to my church as my universe, my wife as unquestioning supporter and my theology as my version of the inerrant Word of God to end. He made an appointment to pull the teeth, and I was not consulted in advance.

Ordinary life, extraordinary events and stuff that just don’t make no sense all combine to rearrange the furniture of my world. Every time I head for a comfortable seat, God sells it. Every time I look for the comfort food, the fridge is empty. Every time I get out my copy of “Things You KNOW Are True,” the dog has eaten it.

My faith continues. Jesus now fills the picture in a way he didn’t before. I realize I have a lot to learn from simple people who never get into pulpits and who aren’t supposed to know everything in the Bible like I supposedly do. My love for my wife and our Christian marriage continues, and there is much good that was not there before. I returned to church today, alone- something that in my anger I said I wouldn’t do. I was reminded that here I won’t ever be turned away from the table. I prayed for the five who were baptized. I was reminded that the faith goes far beyond me, my time, my preferences and my lifetime. I looked, and there were the people of God, and I was one of them. They asked me to lead in prayer, and the words were more careful than before.

I was grateful. I talked to Jesus and he told me it is all going to be all right, that I’m free to walk the new path as I can, and he will not leave me or forsake me. I felt sorry for my sin, and happy to know my Savior loves me.

Life goes on. Losses, gains, light, shadow, confusion, laughter, tears, God, Jesus, Denise, me.

When I look up from the road, I notice that the lights in the distance are closer and the noise behind me is not as loud.

Good journey friends. See you on up the road.

Comments

  1. Michael, this was wonderful. Thanks for sharing. This was the kicker:

    Oh, I thought I needed a friend, so I bought a dog. The dog hates me.

    Ouch.

  2. Dude. Good stuff. Scary as hell for someone in their early twenties to read, but good stuff. Jesus has a nasty habit of smashing my idols, and though I know that is His grace, at times I feel He’s just forgotten about me, or He’s angry, or whatever. Thanks for articulating that struggle beautifully and courageously.

  3. Hi Michael,
    As I read your post, the words resonated with me in a profound way. I’m a 65 year old preacher’s kid that cut my teeth on the Word listening to my circuit pastor dad preach to old tobacco chewers and sod busters on the rural backside of central Ontario in the mid ’40s.

    We moved to the big city just outside Toronto in the early 50s and I ended up being a designer for the balance of my professonal career, all the while being a good Christian lay leader and raising a brood of wonderful kids with a “Christian” spouse that I met in the youth group. All the wheels fell off in my early 50’s when I failed the marriage, divorced several years later and remarried soon after.

    Thats when the world really turned upside down. My spouse suffered a major stroke and a year later my only son died in his late 20s. If I was a good Calvinist, I would be simply accepting due repay for my gross sins and be happy about it, but somehow that doesn’t square with the doctrine of scandalous grace vis a vis Phil Yancey.

    The old Red Harper tune, “I’m following Jesus, one step at a time,” was never so real. I don’t blog but I journal every day. The Lord is closer than ever but it’s a tight relationship now that has long ago spurned the corny accountability nonsense still touted in evangelicalism. I’ve learned there are very, very few friends that sticketh closer than a brother – in fact, that phrase only referred to Jesus. I share the personal story, Michael, simply to encourage you to keep doing what you are doing. Contemporary North American conservative evangelical worship is a joke. The rolling thunder in the distance is the return to orthodoxy and I can’t wait for the lightening to strike. I’ve been reading your wonderful stuff for several years and this is the first time I’ve responded. God bless, Michael

    Paul

  4. Charley says:

    If it helps, your writing is one of the few ministries that I seek out daily. It’s quite useful in my journey. And it has affected my life in significant ways.

    Most bloggers, lurkers, commenters, etc., use the internet to find the kind of community that they can’t find in the real world. I know that’s why I come here, and JSS and BHT. Thanks for giving me a place to hang out, put my feet up, and engage in the kind of discussion that would immediately cause my spouse to roll her eyes, tune me out, and change the subject.

  5. Thanks for sharing this. It is familiar. 😉

  6. “My faith continues. Jesus now fills the picture in a way he didn’t before. I realize I have a lot to learn from simple people who never get into pulpits and who aren’t supposed to know everything in the Bible like I supposedly do.”

    Wow. When God rearranges our furniture, it’s good to know that the wisdom is in the simple, and that people outside the systems can point us to Truth-with-a-name. I find mine in weekly visits with a chiropractor (at MY place) over burritos, or with people who can’t parse a verb and think Reformed is a political party.

    Thanks for the candor. And thanks for not giving up.

  7. I like a line I heard from Steve Brown a long time ago. “Whatever you think God is doing in your life right now, He probably isn’t.”

  8. Hi, Michael,

    This is my favorite line: “The genuine Jesus, if you can actually get the station, can really be annoying to your natural survival instincts of blame, self-pity and anger.”

    At times, I think that the best that we can do is to recognize that we are on the frontiers and that the distant flash of light is another brother or sister on patrol. It can get lonely. Many, many times I have envied those whose roles are within the fort, and not as watchmen.

    My thoughts and prayers.

  9. Thanks, Michael. We both needed that.

  10. Thank you, Michael. It sounds as though you and God are doing the incredibly hard work of stripping away the unessential in your spiritual life. Keep up the good work—and don’t give up on the dog.

  11. Well dang, don’t throw Calvinism under the bus. All Christians knows there is a reason for everything; after all God’s providence isn’t just arbitrary and without purpose.

    Now for us to “know” or even grasp the reasons…. thats a whole other matter. Plenty of people waste mental energy trying to figure things out what they aren’t supposed to without being Calvinists.

    p.s. this is really scary to read as a person in their twenties (to echo the first poster Doug). I myself have had a tumultuous last couple years involving relocating hundreds of miles, breaking down financially and to an extent emotionally as well. The hardest part to the struggle is…. its not possible to stop. There are no time-outs. God didn’t care that I was sick and tired of working 70 hours a week between work and home with huge uncertainties deep in my gut- I had to keep plugging along for the sake of having a place for my family to live. And it is hard to figure out how to be honest and transparent (as opposed to retreating from the world emotionally) while still staying strong for their sakes. I never wanted my wife and kids to taste the desperation that I myself felt.

    Kudos on some great blogging these last 2 years Micheal.

  12. Since I only started reading this blog in the last few months, I didn’t know any of this story, but I want to thank you for communicating it again–the pain with such beauty. I think I’m some way behind you on the road, but some of what you described does feel familiar–or maybe like a premonition. Anyway. Thanks. Thanks, too, for not giving up.

  13. Mike you do contribute greatly to everything you are involved in. I can say that because I always benefit from your ministry and service to God and his people.
    I can not imagine life here at the ministry without you. It would have been soooooo hard to come back if you and Denise were not here. We talked a time or two about the changing of God’s anointing on us as our children leave and God has a real opportunity to HELP us get back to HIM. You are richly blessed, for what father does not discipline the son he loves. Necessary love from our heavenly Father, what a gift!! I am a 100% supporter! Be yourself, be different, be GOD’S, and KEEP being a blessing (I got that from you a few years ago….Baccalaureate, remember?).
    In His sufficient grace, Mark

  14. Michael, thank you for this post. As I have followed your journey I have seen things that are also happening in my life. When you write about trying to figure out what you are supposed to learn from things that happen, and God says “Just obey me tomorrow and we’ll find out”, that’s where I’ve been the last three years. I’ve finally come to the point where I’ve given up trying to figure out “God’s will for my life” and started to concentrate on obeying what God has revealed and find out what I’m supposed to do when I get there. It feels like I’m just along for the ride, but it is an adventure.

  15. You do preach to an attentive congregation of . . . well, you do the Google Analytics and tell us, but if you factor the hits by the duration, you can come up with a rough number of how many people are pastored as much or more by this/these website(s) as in quite a few churches.

    Many preachers would benefit from having access to the figures for how many minutes/seconds people actually stay tuned into the sermon; on Google Analytics, you can pretend but you can’t deny.

    I do pray that you find a church home of some sort, but how many of us parsons actually feel like the congregation we serve is their own “home” for their hearts? Mine is partially hooked into a monastery in New Mexico and a convent in Kentucky, which balances out the red-headed stepchildness of what it feels like to be a member where you’re a pastor. (For Methodists, ordained clergy aren’t ever “members” of their charge, but are members of their annual conference. Don’t know if that helps much from what i’ve seen.)

  16. I echo many by saying thank you. My husband and I just saw Shane Claiborne on his tour last night coming through FL. We are in such flux right now looking for more and not finding it in our church (clinching the deal when the service leading up to the 4th of July which was ONLY patriotic music and no sermon – wha??). On the way home last night we talked about Shane and we also talked about you. I said, “I never understood the ‘post evangelical wilderness’ so much as I do right now.” Thanks always for your honest words. It’s quite a journey for all of us.

  17. Well, God is always, always attempting to take us to “places” where we can see, really and genuinely see His reality. And that mess hurts. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced a time in my life when I knew God was cranking on my insides in a major way and it didn’t hurt like hell. We’re twisted, selfish, not yet formed into His Image messes – whom HE LOVES with all His Being! So He hurts us with a burning Love.

    “Hold still son and let me get this thing out of your foot”“Waaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!” That’s usually our response. I don’t mean “whining” in a bad way, I just mean, we cry out in pain and we don’t always understand at first what He’s doing. “Are you tryin’ to kill me down there Dad, or what?” He’s not. If we’re open to Him, deeply, we eventually figure that out and “get” what’s going on. Your heart seems more than open, Michael.

    It’s odd how I relate to your description of things changing in your ministry, church, etc. As you know, I’ve gone through a lot of similar (sort of backwards I guess) things in the last year. I know I haven’t recovered yet either – not hardly. I’m still reeling. Things aren’t terrible, but seriously, I have gone from being “somebody” to being nobody. I was something (this is how I feel) and now I’m nothing. And that, friends, is some hurtin’ stuff.

    My old spiritual director, early on in this process, said something – “maybe God is trying to make you little.” Maybe so – little like the child of Scripture. I hope I’m open to that molding. May there be enough Peace from the Holy Spirit for us that we don’t just throw our hands up and run away.

  18. Alan,

    Recently I’ve had the clear impression that I need to meditate on the lives and experiences of Christians who were “little,” as you say. I am thinking about people who never preached, wrote, taught or led, but simply lived out the faith faithfully in obscurity. My dad comes to mind, and my mom. I am not a shadow of the Christians they were. My dad was a devoted man of prayer, but hardly ever entered a church. Mom loved everyone, but never had her name on anything except the door of the 2 year olds Sunday School Room at Church.

    The job issues I’ve had have all been in this area. All kinds of decisions made without even consulting me via email, much less in person. Administrative changes where my presence and input- even over my own job- matter less and less.

    And of course ministry, where I still have a place, but clearly God is showing me what the way down looks like. (And there are plenty of people willing to help 🙂

    God is the one who sees our lives. He is the ultimate recorder, witness and judge. To be little in our own sight means we have made progress repenting of pride. What matters is what Jesus sees- the widow’s mite and so on.

  19. IMonk, I think your journey is best described by The Grateful Dead:

    What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been…

  20. Wow. Thank you for this.

  21. Have your read Peter Scazzero Emotionally Healthy Spirituality? It sure shook “the ground of my being,” and seems to go along with what you’ve experienced during your journey. As a UM I only add that experiencing what John Wesley called “sanctifying grace” can indeed prove shall we say interesting.

  22. rampancy says:

    Wow, what an amazing post. Again, thank you for writing this, Michael.

  23. Really good stuff. Look on the bright side-you still have your incredible wit. There were several really laugh out loud lines in there. Then I would feel bad about laughing. But you pour out your soul in a very funny way. Like most comedians.

    In my own life (like you care) I have decided there are many things I believe but only a few that I know. The resurrection is what keeps me hanging in there.

    I think God keeps me involved in the church because otherwise I would turn into a really really bad person. I’m sure of it.

    I’ll keep you and your family in my prayers. Love the blog.

  24. Michael C says:

    Thanks

  25. sixsevenfive says:

    Wow, Michael; thanks for sharing so honestly and warmly. You really are an inspiration, and a fine Christian example – flaws intact. Thanks so much – and thank God – for all your work.

  26. Bob Sacamento says:

    In the meantime, God and my wife got together and decided that what I really needed was for her to start down the road to joining the Roman Catholic church.

    Michael,

    I don’t want to minimize your pain, but it could be worse. My God-fearing, Bible-believing, evangelical wife, for whom I stayed single well past my prime so I could meet her and marry, has gone completely Word of Faith on me, no turning back. Wanna swap?

  27. Bob Sacamento says:

    I wanted MINISTRY to be the ongoing reward. I wanted USEFULNESS to be my satisfaction. I wanted to be SIGNIFICANT. I wanted the contract to be in place and the insurance to protect me because I was the guy with the Bible. Well, that didn’t go very well, did it?

    Dang, you’re reading my journal, dude. Or, you would be if I wasn’t too lazy to keep one, which I guess makes me not as spritual as my evangelical brothers who somehow manage it, but screw them anyway.

    I talked to Jesus and he told me it is all going to be all right, that I’m free to walk the new path as I can, and he will not leave me or forsake me. I felt sorry for my sin, and happy to know my Savior loves me.

    But here’s where I can’t keep up with you. I just haven’t gotten to the point where I can hear any of this. I am glad for you and I hope I can join you there soon.

    I know this is your blog. Hope you don’t mind me whining here too.

  28. In April of 06, I felt God instructing me to resign from the church I was serving. It was the church our family called home for a decade. I’d served them for 12 years. I had no idea that it was the end of almost any sense of spiritual “home” at all, and the beginning of a season of much change.

    This is where I came in. I’m not a faithful reader; I’m an occasional reader. Truth be told, I usually flee here when my heart is hurting for (or because of) my own church, or when I feel like God has gone silent (which he does sometimes, but often only I’ve put my fingers in my ears and started shouting, “I can’t hear you, lalalalalala LA!”).

    I’m just a guy with a life, and life is full of failure and loss.

    This is so true. My problem is that I get stuck here (only I’m not a guy, but you know…). I get stuck here a lot. Yesterday, I heard the most wonderful, and arguably God-given advice, from an agnostic (albeit cultural Jew) — in a video linked from your blog: “Thou shalt give thanks.”

    When Jacobs talked about the hundreds of little things that go right every day as opposed to the handful that go wrong, it was like a smack in my face — one I needed so much. Your blog also often gives me the same sort of smack in the face, and I’m so grateful to you for that, Michael. It occurs to me as I proof read that I started out talking about ‘thanks’ as though I was trying to provide you with a remedy. I wasn’t. I’m not trying to preach that you should be grateful. It’s clear in your posts how well aware you are of the blessings in your life. I just want you to know that your writing is a blessing in my life. Thank you for that.

    Oh. Did I mention that God and I are talking a LOT more these days, and I’m learning to recognize the voice of Jesus separate from my own head […]

    The above is something I’m struggling with. Usually after I’ve messed up in a monumental way, I can spot where I ignored God’s leading. I need to get better at recognizing when I’m listening to my own self and identifying my voice as that of the Lord.

    Simultaneously with all of these events, strange things began to happen to me at my job. Exceedingly strange. For instance, I was criticized for writing in my moleskine during sermons and for going to the restroom. All who live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

    Oh, dear.

    Oh, I thought I needed a friend, so I bought a dog. The dog hates me.

    Oh man, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry that’s happened but am glad you wrote it, because it’s so funny (so true and so funny).

    The genuine Jesus, if you can actually get the station, can really be annoying to your natural survival instincts of blame, self-pity and anger.

    My kids are still young (8, 9, and 12). I think the first time I told them how unfair Jesus can be, I shocked them. In my better moments, I try to remember to be grateful that Jesus is unfair, and to remember that I don’t actually want what I surely deserve.

    If you’ve never watched the short-lived TV series, Joan of Arcadia, let me recommend it to you. It’s more deist than Christian, although its creator is a returned-to-the-fold Roman Catholic. But man, Joan’s struggles with God were all too familiar, even though I have about 20 years on her. Your wife might identify with Joan’s mother’s turn (return, in her case) to the Roman Catholic church. It’s just a TV show (and a cancelled one at that). It’s not profound, it just touches the right spot in me. At times it seems Jesus has used it to heal me, and at others, he has used it to convict me.

    Peace to you, Michael.

  29. Very deep and moving. Thanks for sharing from the heart. It’s posts like these that keep me from assuming that you are just an anti-fundy liberal having a good time (at least till the next pro-Carlin or anti-inerrancy type post). Anyway, the Lord’s blessing in your journey…and now, back to the fundy-frying….

  30. Oh, I thought I needed a friend, so I bought a dog. The dog hates me.

    Oh..that has got to be the funniest/saddest thing in your whole litany!

    Buy another dog….a large breed! 🙂

  31. Brian Coffey says:

    Michael,
    I admire you going back to that local church. I really do. As messed up or imperfect as congregations may be, we all need to be with other believers if we can be at all. Blessings on you and your work.

  32. Mike, I agree with what Mark (another great friend I might add) has to say. You’re a blessing, a friend and a mentor. I’ve seen your growth; a man certainly seeking to be more like Jesus. Need anything? Holler up the Holler… (I actually had to look up how to spell that)

    Oh yeah, my cats said dogs are over-rated.

  33. JohnB5200 says:

    “Every time I get out my copy of “Things You KNOW Are True,” the dog has eaten it.”

    I love it! Thanks for this post. It is so encouraging.

    P.S. I also listen to Greg Boyd. Like you, I don’t agree with everything, but I appreciate his approach to the problem of evil in the world.

  34. Brian Pendell says:

    “Every time I get out my copy of “Things You KNOW Are True,” the dog has eaten it.”

    “2The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. 3But the man who loves God is known by God.” (1 Cor 8:2-3).

    Thank you, Michael, for your honesty. In the Christian environment it’s a breath of fresh air in a world full of pieties and platitudes.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.

  35. I just wanted to thank you for sharing your insights through this season. I’ve been going through a similar season, to some degree, and appreciate having the insights you provide to help steer me to some degree.

    Your paragraph:

    You see, I’ve been trained my whole life to think like a pietistic Calvinist. There had to be a REASON for all of this. There has to be a LESSON. I get to ask WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO LEARN? So picture me spending all kinds of mental energy trying to find what was the great lesson at the core of all of this that, when I learned it, would make it all go away.

    really struck home with me- I’ve been driving myself crazy trying to figure out what I should be learning from three years of infertility, and two miscarriages, and there just doesn’t seem to be much to learn from that, you know? It’s been faith-deadening to keep struggling to learn whatever it is I’m supposed to learn so I can make it stop 🙂 A

    Anyway, I appreciate your honesty, and sharing your personal struggles here, because they are very helpful to me. Thank you.

  36. It’s good that you’ve reached the point where you can look back and chuckle about it as I can imagine that you weren’t while going through this. As frustrating as it is, it is good to learn to lean on Him rather than all the distractions, eh? It sure does take a lot for us to learn though. Thanks for your sharing your journey thus far.

  37. I have been a similar journey.. leaving our church pastoral staff next week.. thanks for the encouragement.. your words helped.

  38. I appreciate knowing all that you’ve written in this post. I just discovered IM a few months ago and have wondered about the details. My Christian life has had many more lows than highs, so I look for familiar pain expressed.

    Re; your dog- I guess I have no business imagining what gifts are from God, but I truly believe domestic animals are His gift for our loneliness. How many widows do you know who decide they like cats and dogs after all? So, I think it might be encoded into their dna to bond with us. Maybe yours is actually a wolf, or a dingo? If it’s a Chihuahua, then something strange is happening there.

  39. I guess you’ve already established that “strange” is a defining characteristic of your life at present.

  40. …some of the most honest words I’ve ever read. Thank you.

  41. I realize I have a lot to learn from simple people who never get into pulpits and who aren’t supposed to know everything in the Bible like I supposedly do.

    This is late enough that I don’t know if you’ll end up reading it, but this strikes something of a chord in me. Early in my Christian life, I had a struggle with Christianity and intellectualism. Not in the sense that my intellect was making me doubt, but more like how do you, as a Christian who is prone to intellectualism, exercise those gifts without being prone to the pride and vanity that often go along with it. I won’t go into the thought process involved, but the conclusion I came to is that God has engineered things so that my heart as an intellectual won’t be entirely satisfied unless I’m willing to listen to those I don’t consider intellectual. I’ve since found that the insights I value most (and the heart of an intellectual (at least the style of intellectual that I am) values insights) have often started from the comment of someone I might not consider “intellectual”.

    I’ve since begun to suspect that something similar applies to anyone who has gifts that their hearts get bound up in. The musician who thinks he can ignore the unmusical, the artist who looks down on those who don’t “understand” his art, and, yes, perhaps the pastor who perceives the teaching can only go one way between himself and his flock, will find an empty, unfulfilled place in his heart as he exercises his gifts. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you'” applies not only on a church organization level, but on a very personal level, and it appears that God has engineered us and the gifts he has given us so that we will feel, deeply, the ramifications of ignoring it.

  42. Thank you. Much of what you’ve written resonates. I appreciate your willingness to be transparent, and to share not just your pain, but God’s response.