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When A Little Squeaking Brought Down The Walls

(Another post, albeit a lengthy one, about my journey in, out, and back into ministry.)

Everything seemed to be going in line with my plan.  I worked, I came home, spent time with Angela and Samuel, volunteered at church, and even found more time for my new hobby, riding a bike.

This is my life.

But then I began to notice a change within me.

I didn’t feel sad.  I didn’t feel happy.  I didn’t feel mad or angry or depressed or worried or excited.

I felt nothing.  Numb.

And it felt very strange.

How do you not feel anything I questioned.  Am I not alive?  Am I not a human being?

But that’s how it was.

Nothing could move my emotions.

Someone might confide in me of a struggle they were enduring or a tough time they were going through and I could mouth words of empathy.  I knew what to say and how to say it, but I felt nothing when I said it.  I did not feel anything for them.

At other times, I could be in a worship service, participating in the singing, just singing the words, but they didn’t move me.  They were just words on the screen.

Another person could tell me of the best news in the world, how they had experienced the greatest miracle of all time.  I could smile and mouth words of appreciation and excitement, yet I didn’t feel anything.

None of this made any sense to me.

Is this what happened when you got older and no one had bothered to tell me?  I wondered.

It felt oh so strange.  I didn’t even know how to describe this feeling.  What caused it?  Where did it come from?  Would it always be like this?  I had all sorts of questions.

If I might have been willing to talk to someone about this, I wouldn’t have even known how to begin to describe it.  How do you describe nothing?

So, I didn’t talk to anyone about it.

Not even Angela.

Besides, I figured, I hoped, that it would pass and no one would be the wiser.

Yet, these lack of feelings persisted.  To combat the worry, I developed a plan:  stay busy.  Work, eat, play, and sleep.  Then repeat.  Get up, go to work, sit in traffic, drive home sit in traffic, workout, ride the bike, fix dinner, eat dinner, watch some TV, read a little, play with Samuel, go to bed, and do it all over again the next day, the next month, and the next year.

And never slow down.  Stay busy.  Stay engaged.  Do something, because when the activity stopped, then the mind would bring those questions up, “What is wrong with you?”  “When are your going to get better?” and after awhile, “Will you even get better?”

At some point, I just accepted it.  This is the way it’s going to be.

Deal with it.

And then fear walked in the door and camped out for awhile.  Every time- and I mean every single time– Angela and Samuel would be gone anywhere- to the store, to visit friends, or on an out of town trip, I would worry that something might happen to one or both of them.  If something happened to one of them, then how would I help the other cope with the situation?  My mind would then race through every detail.  I would plan out every thing that would need to be done from making arrangements to figuring out how I would pay the bills and manage for child care.  Once I’d made this plan, I would review it over and over and over again.

And over and over.

If they were away on an overnight trip, I would wake up every hour or so during the night.

“What the heck is this?” I wondered.

But I didn’t tell a single, solitary soul.

When I would feel as though it were getting really bad, when I worried that I might be losing it, I considered going to see a professional.  Somebody who didn’t know me.  But somebody who could help me.

Yet, my mind countered, how would I find such a person?  I didn’t want to blindly pick someone out of the yellow pages, although I came close.  To find someone good and reputable would require asking someone else, would require letting someone else know that I needed help, and short of lying, someone would know that something was wrong.

So I kept silent.

I told no one.

I asked for no help.

I just hoped that it would all go away.

And I kept very, very busy.

As these feelings lingered, I tried my best to lay low and not let anyone figure this out.

This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy life or that I didn’t laugh or smile.  Life indeed was good.  I had a great wife and son, great job, and I rode my bike as much as I could.

I should be happy and fine.

That made it all the more frustrating.

In the first few years we’d been a part of CrossRoads, Joe had asked me to preach once or twice a year, which I did without problem.  Not only did I enjoy it, but this stuck with my other plan to volunteer as much as I could.

However, in the midst of whatever this was, I couldn’t preach.  Joe would ask me and I would defer with some excuse like being too busy or might be out of town or something else.  I deferred because I could think of nothing to say.  I would read passages of the Bible and the words just blurred together.

Nothing jumped out at me.

Nothing inspired me.

I knew I couldn’t get up there and preach.

Instead of sensing that this might somehow be connected to this thing I had been enduring, I rationalized that this phase of life, ministry, had passed.  I should no longer consider myself a candidate for ministry.

On one level, this gave me a great deal of relief.  I no longer wrestled to any degree with the idea of calling and ministry.

It was over.

******************

The bike became a place where I could get away.  Where I could think or not think.  It became a place to enjoy the scenery.  Or I could concentrate on my efforts.

So, when faced with these mental and emotional and even spiritual challenges, I got on the bike and went for a ride.  For a time, it helped clear out the cobwebs.

Despite my rolling sanctuary, I never found any answers to why I had become enveloped in this fog of feeling nothing.  I analyzed it from every possible angle and could not figure anything out.

As time passed and as nothing changed, I began to resign myself to the situation.

What else could I do?  The whole thing didn’t make any sense to me.

*************************

I gave up and resigned myself to this situation.

Then, one day, one ordinary day, I woke up and felt like myself again.  This emotional fog had disappeared.  The shadow and the darkness were gone.  I didn’t know what to make of this and for a few days I waited for it to return.

But it didn’t.

So how did it happen?

What’s the secret?

I didn’t read one book that opened my eyes or changed me or gave me new insights or perspectives.

I didn’t follow a plan or a program.

I didn’t pray a particular prayer.

I didn’t have someone pray for me, over me, about me, or anything like that.

I didn’t go talk to some wise sage or counselor.

To be accurate, I never told a soul.

I did none of that and yet something changed.

(Maybe it would’ve happened sooner if I had done one of those things.  I don’t advocate doing nothing.  Pride and embarrassment kept me from doing something.)

I cannot take credit for what happened.  I even have trouble describing what took place.  It just happened.

Part of me would feel better if I could understand how or why it suddenly left.  Perhaps I could bottle that formula and sell it to other people.

But I can’t, because I don’t know what caused those feelings to leave.

I knew one thing.

I felt alive.

I felt like me, but even better.

A new and improved me.

Cautiously, I continued to wait and see if this newness would last.

It did.

My best description of what happened, I felt as if there had been scales blinding me and now they had suddenly fallen off.

Just like that.

As much energy and excitement as I felt, another part of me freaked out even more.  What the heck had happened?  What had taken place?  Why had I been like that and why, how, had it so suddenly gone away?

What had been wrong with me and what was now right?

I waited a couple of more weeks, wondering if this new feeling might pass and the old might return.

(I am a pessimist by nature.)

It didn’t.

Another thought entered my mind.  I needed to tell someone what had happened.

“I don’t want to do that.”

“You need to do this.”

“If I do that, then I will be acknowledging that something had been wrong.  I’ll have to tell them about this time in my life when- in my best description- I felt unlike me, and then they’re going to want to know why I didn’t tell them in the first place.  The fact that it’s gone will be lost by the fact that I kept this from them.”

“You need to do this.”

“But I don’t want to.”

“You need to.”

“Fine.”

Once I’d relented, then the issue became who to tell.  Angela?  Of course. I always went to her first.

But this time, and only this time, I didn’t.  I still didn’t have a firm grasp of what had taken place so I thought it might be better to talk to someone else.  As I stumbled through telling this story, I wanted to “practice” it on someone not my wife.  I don’t know why.  It seemed to be the right thing to do.  In every thing else in my life, every hope, every dream, every defeat, I have gone to her first.

Whoever I told, this wouldn’t be easy.

I decided to call our pastor, Joe.

Even though I had relented and agreed with myself to do this, I still dreaded making that phone call.

I wanted to move on with the new me and not talk about the old me.

I argued with myself.  “You’re making this out to be a much bigger deal than it actually was.  You’re wasting his time.  He’s going to think you’re a weirdo.  He’s going to laugh at you.  Don’t do this.  He’s going to look at you strangely.”

“So.”

I had no come back for that.

I waited until I had gotten in the car to drive home before I made the call.  I didn’t want to take the chance that anyone from work might overhear.  I found this embarrassing enough as it was.

I dialed the number as I drove down Central Expressway.  I knew that if I didn’t bring this up right away, then I would never do so.  My chest was pounding, my palms were sweating.

“What’s up?” he answered.

I took a quick deep breath and started right in.  “I wanted to know if you had time to get together?  Maybe lunch or dinner?”

We settled on Tuesday evening the following week.

Then came the follow-up question.  “What did you want to talk about?”

Chest exploding, I vomited out the words so fast, I’m not sure they didn’t all run together.  “I’ve been through something recently that I don’t quite understand.  It’s all good now, but seeing as how I’m an elder at the church I felt that I should fill you in on this.  You probably wouldn’t notice a change in me if I didn’t say anything so I thought I should tell what has happened.”

Vague but informative.

“Awesome, man.  Can’t wait to hear about it next Tuesday.”

And with that, we ended the call.  I had sort of told somebody that something was up in the vaguest sense possible.  There would be, there could be, no backtracking now.

We met at the church and then drove to a nearby Mexican restaurant, Abuelos.  At first, we discussed sports, family, work, church, and of course, what we were going to order.

In the week since I’d made the phone call and in the drive over to the restaurant, a large part of me wanted to minimize, perhaps even dismiss, what I had been through.

“Those are just feelings.  When you lean on your feelings, those crazy things lead you to make a fool of yourself.  Don’t bring it up.  Maybe he’s forgotten why you wanted to meet.”

We ordered our food, continued making small talk, and then the food arrived.

Then, he asked the question.  “So what’s up?  What have you been through?  What did you want to tell me?”

He ate, while my food got cold and congealed, as I explained this most recent journey.  I described the lack of feeling or empathy, the overwhelming sense of fear, and general dullness of feeling.  I added that I had avoided preaching when he’d asked because when I read the Bible, the words ran together.  Nothing jumped out me.  There was no inspiration.

Then, I explained that something had changed.  I couldn’t explain it, much less take credit for it.  But, one day, I woke up and everything was different from my mood to my outlook to my perspective.  It made no sense to me.  And in the only way I knew how to describe it, I said, “it feels as if the scales have fallen off.”

And I concluded, “You may not recognize a difference in me or even a change in me, but something has changed within me.  I don’t understand.”

We conversed more.  He’d finished eating and since I’d told him all that I had to say, I started eating my cold meal.  He asked a few questions and tried to draw some parallels from his own experience.

At the end of the meal, as we waited for the bill, he said one more thing.  “I heard you once talk about your experience of leaving the ministry and it always sounded incomplete or unfinished to me.  I’m not saying that you need to go back to the ministry, but I get the feeling that you may not have fully dealt with the situation.  You may want to go to God and just see if there is anything there.  I don’t know that there is.  I could be wrong, but in listening to you talk about it before, I got the sense that there might be.”

(What?!)

I hadn’t expected this at all.  I expected a “Congratulations.  I’m glad things are better for you.  Let’s move on.”

I didn’t expect, “You may not be done processing things.”

“So,” he continued, “do that and get back to me at some point.  I don’t even know if there is anything to process, but there might be.”

“Okay,” I said.

Even though I said “Okay,” I thought it was the dumbest piece of advice I’d ever gotten.

Why would I want to revisit the past?  I had dealt with it.  I had moved on.  Those doors were closed and the story had ended.  It was time to move on.

On the other hand, I realized that I had been given a second chance.  I couldn’t explain my descent nor could I rationalize how it had all gone away one day.  What if I ignored Joe’s suggestion and in a few weeks or months found myself regressing into the person I’d been before?

It wasn’t worth that risk to me.

Reluctantly, very reluctantly, I decided I would take Joe’s suggestion.  Besides, he would keep asking me until I did so.  I could either do it or lie to him.

And what did I have to fear?  What harm would there be in seeing if there was anything with that experience of leaving the ministry?  I had dealt with it, many times.

There was nothing to process, right?

(Right?!)

I didn’t rush home and immediately begin to process my past experience.  I didn’t even do it the next day or the day after that.  I waited a couple of days.

Finally, I knew I couldn’t avoid it any longer, if nothing more than to be able to tell Joe that I had “processed” this experience and found nothing there.  On Friday morning, I arrived at work earlier than normal one day.  Instead of reading the news and sports off the internet, I sat at my desk and mentally prepared myself to do this.

It might seem odd to do this at work, but my co-workers normally didn’t start arriving until eight fifteen or so.  Seeing as how I had arrived at six forty-five, I figured I had plenty of time.

I took a couple of deep breaths.

“I’m ready to do this.”

But then I wondered, how do you do this?  Joe hadn’t told me how and I’d never done anything like this before.  How do your process a past experience with God?  Is there a book or a website about that sort of thing?

I didn’t know exactly what to do.

I decided to open a blank Word document.

Maybe I should pray.

(That seemed like a good idea.)

“Okay, God, I don’t know about this, but I’ll try.  I don’t know what should happen or will happen, if anything.  I don’t know what I’m doing and I feel particularly silly.  Really silly.  Here’s the deal.  I will type down whatever you bring to mind about that particular time in my life.  I won’t edit the words.  I’ll just type what You bring to mind.”

This felt dumb.

And weird.

After a minute or so (kinda of fast, I thought), a few things came into my mind and I started typing.  After that, a few minutes of nothing passed, just the hum of the computer.  I reviewed what I had typed.

“Hmm.”

I did not like what I saw on the screen.

Let me repeat.  I did not like what I saw on the screen.

The words I’d typed expressed an anger, a hostility, and a darkness that I didn’t know existed within me.

At this point, you might be expecting me to say, “Then, I broke down into tears.  God had revealed the source of my pain and anger, and as much as it pained me, I was glad to expunge this from my heart.  I agreed with those words.  I prayed for God to heal me, to cleanse my heart and to forgive me.”

That did not happen.

I read the words on the screen again.

I really did not like what I read.

This was unfair.  This, that situation, was not my fault.  I had been justified.  I had reasons, good reasons, valid reasons, reasons that most people would concur with for me feeling the way I did about that situation and about those people.

I had been right.

I was right.

This was not a problem.

(How can it be a problem if you are right?)

“I’m done with this,” I muttered, and I exited the program.  When prompted as to whether or not I wanted to save this document, the answer was a resounding “No.”  With the click of a mouse, the words were gone.  Poof!  Disposed of as easily as they had come.

I got up from my desk and went downstairs to the cafeteria.  I’d already eaten breakfast at home, but I wanted to be as far away from my desk, from my office, from that place, from those feelings as possible.

“I’m done with this.”

I didn’t know what I was going to do next, but I didn’t want to think about it.  That was the past, and I was all about the future.

**********************

Since I enjoyed biking so much, I decided that I wanted a new, lighter, faster bike.  I spent six weeks searching store after store before I found the one I wanted, a 2006 Trek Madone 5.1.  This carbon fiber beauty weighed much less than my previous aluminum bike.

If I thought I went fast before, I really flew now..

I loved riding this bike.

Nine months after having purchased this expensive bike, I became annoyed when it developed a persistent and annoying squeak.  I tried oiling the chain to no avail.

For the amount of money I’d spent on this bike, there shouldn’t be a single squeak.  Yet, I had one.

I took it to the bike shop where I’d purchased it.  They took a brief look at it, squirted something on something, pronounced it fixed, and sent me on my way.

“All fixed,” the mechanic said.

And for one ride, it was.  But on the second ride, there came that squeak again.

Not pleased with the service I’d experienced at this first bike shop, I took it to a second bike shop, one near my house.

“We’ve seen this before,” the young mechanic declared.  He proceeded to do a little of this and a little of that before he also pronounced it good as new.

This time I didn’t even make it one full ride before the squeaking returned.  I made it as far as the end of the driveway.  For the next two hours, I listened to “squeak, squeak, squeak.”

(I did ride rather fast that day, but that can probably be attributed the inner rage I had channeled over this incessant squeaking and the inability of anyone to fix it.)

As soon as I returned home, I mounted the bike onto the bike rack of my car.  It was going to another bike shop and this time they would fix it.

At lunch the following day, I drove to a bike shop near my office and rolled my bike into the shop and over to the service counter.  A few minutes later, a tall man with gray hair, somewhere in his fifties I would guess, came over to help me.

“How can I help you?” he asked.

“This bike has a persistent squeak that no one seems to be able to fix.  I’ve taken it to two other bike shops, they’ve done something, promised it was fixed, and yet it never is.  I don’t understand what the problem is.”

“Well,” he said, seemingly perplexed, “let me take it for a spin out back.”

Although this squeak seemed to be constant to me, I halfway expected for this man to return with my bike and tell me that he had not heard one single squeak.  I’m not saying it was all in my head.  I knew what I heard, but I figured this bike would go silent when I needed it to squeak at its loudest.

I stood waiting at the service counter.

He returned about five minutes later and leaned my bike against the service counter.  He then grabbed a service form and began to make notes on this form.  Finally, he spoke to me, “I’m going to need your bike for a couple of days.”

“That’s fine,” I answered.

It seemed to be a step in the right direction.  Others had squirted something on it and promised that it had been fixed.  He wanted to keep it for an overnight visit.

But he’d told me nothing of what he’d heard.  Had he heard anything?  Did he know what the problem happened to be?

He kept writing.

“Did you hear it squeak?” I asked.

He ignored my question and continued writing.

This is it, I thought.  Enough!  I wanted this thing fixed.  Once and for all.

I bent over and pointed in the vicinity of where I believed I’d heard the squeaking coming from.  “It usually sounds like it’s coming from right here,”  I declared.

The employee continued to ignore my declaration.

“Can you fill in the top part with your information?  Name, number, address, that sort of thing,” he said as he handed me a clipboard with the form on it.

I reiterated where I thought the squeak had been coming from and also reminded him that  I’d taken it to two other bike shops with no success.

Finally, he spoke, “Today is your lucky day.  I’m the one here that they give these tricky problems.  It may sound like the squeak is coming from way down there by your chain, but any squeak that is coming from below you is going to sound like it’s coming from down there.  This squeak could be coming from anywhere- your seat, your front wheel, rear wheel, or a bolt somewhere else.  It could be anything anywhere.  I’m going to take your bike apart bolt by bolt until I find that squeak.  And if I find one squeak, I’m not going to be satisfied.  I’m going to keep going until I find every single squeak.”

“Thanks,” I mumbled as I handed him the form back.  I tried not to make eye contact with him.

He handed me my claim ticket and then I walked out of the store.

Quickly.

I got in my car and turned the air conditioner on high.

This thought, this voice, that same voice I’d heard a few times before, came to my mind almost immediately.  “That’s what I’ve been trying to do in your life.  I’m trying to show you the squeaks in your life.  Are you ready for me to show you those things in you?  Are you ready for me to take you apart piece by piece and expose all the squeaks in your life?”

BAM!!!

A two by four right across the eyes from God.

“I got it.  I get it.”

I sat there and mulled those words over in my head.  God wanted to expose and to fix the squeaks in my life.  Maybe I did have things that I needed to process about that one negative church experience.  I wasn’t eager or anxious for this process to take place.  I didn’t know what it might entail or what I might discover about myself, but I knew that I had to do this.

“Okay, I’ll do it.”

Did I rush back to the office and do this?

No.

Did I do it that night at home?

No.

Did I do it the very next day?

No.

Or the day after that?

Again, no.

I kept meaning to do it and I had every intention of doing so.  Yet, I kept finding other things to occupy my time.

For the second year in a row, I had signed up to take part in the Houston to Austin MS150 bike ride.  This event is a two day bike ride that starts in Houston and ends in Austin with the purpose of raising money and awareness for MS.

My brother-in-law lived in Houston and had secured us a team to ride with.  Since the ride started in Houston, Angela, Samuel, and I drove down there on a Thursday night.  This way, she could spend time with her sister, the cousins could play together, and I could get my bike-riding fix in.

On Friday morning, the brother-in-law went to work, Angela, her sister, Samuel, and the cousins went somewhere else, and I found myself alone in the house with nothing to do.

Absolutely nothing to do.

What to do?  What could I do?  What should I do?

I knew I couldn’t avoid this anymore.  I reached into my backpack and pulled out a notepad and pen.  Once more, I prayed, “Lord, I’ll write down whatever you show me.  You want to expose the squeaks, then expose the squeaks.”

For a moment, I sat there in the quiet.  Then, I began to write down the names of the people associated with that one negative church experience.  I wrote down the word “anger.”  Then I wrote down the word “bitter.”

I searched for rationalization and justification for my anger and I couldn’t find any.  The bitterness and hostility that had festered over all these years had nothing to do with anything that anyone of these people had actually done to me.  Sitting there, I realized that I’d become angry and bitter at them for things that I thought, that I had assumed, they had done.  For things they might have done, but for which I had not a single fact, record, or any knowledge of them ever even doing.

In short, I blamed them for the negative experience of that church.

I had become angry and bitter towards them for things I thought they might have done but I really didn’t know if they had done.

I blamed them for the fact that things in ministry had not worked out for me.

My eyes had finally been opened to all this stuff within me.  I had no idea these feelings had been within me all these years.  I thought it had been a rough patch and then I’d moved on.  I never realized how that one experience had so dramatically affected me.

Although it didn’t feel good to see this stuff on paper, I did feel a release in knowing and naming that which had been hidden within me.

And then I kept writing.

There were more squeaks to expose and to fix.

I wrote the word “God.”

And then I wrote the words “Angry and bitter.”

I realized that not only had I been angry and bitter at these people, I had become angry and bitter at God.

That didn’t make me feel so good.

Yet, looking at those words on the paper, I could see it all too clearly.  I blamed God for my failure.  I blamed Him for setting me up.  He’d sent me to that church, He’d arranged the circumstances, drawn my heart back to that place, for what?  Failure?  God wanted me to fail?

It had been His fault, or so I’d thought, for all these years.

I had blamed God for my failure.

I’d been angry at God for my failure.

And the anger had turned to bitterness.

This was the squeak that made me miserable.

When I saw this, it brought clarity to my life and helped me understand the decisions I had been making.  As the years had passed and as the anger had grown, I’d built up a wall around me, one that I wouldn’t allow anyone to penetrate.

Then I understood why I had been in an emotional fog for a period of time.  I had built up such a high wall that I cut myself off from everything around me.

For years I had tried to stuff this anger deep down inside me.  Or that’s what I thought I was doing.  In reality, I had been building a fortress that no one could penetrate.

It took God Himself knocking a hole in the wall, shining a ray of light into my darkened world, for me to have the opportunity to have these walls destroyed.  I think if I had continued to be reticent about allowing God to show me these things in my life then the wall might have been patched up and fortified even stronger.

With this realization, I could now see how throughout the years this anger at God had affected me.  All along I could not escape the sense that God had called me, but I as I would draw close to such opportunities, something would happen, something would trigger those past experiences, and I would find myself saying, “You can’t trust them,” by which I meant the church.

I also meant God.

I sat there on the floor, staring at these words, knowing they were one hundred percent true.  It had all been exposed and as painful as that had been, I felt such a relief.  A burden had been lifted.

For once, I understood.

******************

When I got back home the following week, I contacted Joe to let him know that I had completed the processing of that past experience and we set a day to meet.  Unlike our first visit, I don’t remember exactly when or where we met.  I do remember food being involved, but I don’t know if it involved lunch or dinner.

I do remember his response.

“I had no idea.”

I suppose he hadn’t expected for so much to be unveiled or for the depths of what had been there.

Not that I blame him.  I didn’t walk around with someone who exuded an silent burning anger at God.

But, the issue had been exposed and dealt with.  I had gotten this sludge out of my system and now I could move on without ever having to think or talk about it again.

Right?

Then, Joe said something else, “Would you mind sharing that at the next 18-20 Somethings (a college/young adult ministry at CrossRoads) meeting?”

I didn’t know what to say.  It was one thing to disclose these things to a friend and another thing to stand up on a stage and tell them to others.

“Um, I guess so.  Give me a couple of days to see if I can arrange this in some sort of format.”

Secretly, I hoped that I couldn’t.  The very last thing I wanted to do was to stand up in front of a group of people and tell them about the issues and the junk that had been festering inside of me for the last thirteen years.  It was time to move on.  I wanted to move on.  Start fresh.  Begin again.

Besides, how would I even incorporate this experience into some sort of talk to a group of people?  I thought about it for a few days and then started to consolidate my thoughts into a workable format.  It came together much easier than I had anticipated

I called Joe and told him I’d been able to put something together.

“How about next Tuesday?”

No need to waste any time.

“Sure.”

A part of me did not want to do this.  I had no desire to expose to friends and strangers what I had been through, both the good and bad.  On the positive side, I figured there might be approximately twenty to thirty people at this meeting, so not that many people would know about what I had been through.  Given enough effort, I could probably navigate my way at church so that I wouldn’t run into any of them again.

On Tuesday night, I arrived at the church and met everyone.  We sang songs and then I stood up to speak.  I told my story and what I had learned through the entire ordeal.  It seemed to go over well.  I talked with a few people afterwards and they seemed to be encouraged in their own ways by what I had to say.

On my drive home that night, I thought to myself, “Okay, I did it.  Now, it’s time to move on.  To what, I don’t know, but at least I can finally put the past behind me.”

First thing the next morning, Joe called me at work.  “Great job last night.  I had an idea last night when I went home.”

“Okay,” I replied, hesitant as to what might be coming.

I had no idea what he was going to say.

“Would you mind preaching that message this Sunday in both services?  Don’t change a thing.  Just do it exactly as you did it last night.”

Of all the things in the world I didn’t want to do.

Tell your wife?  No problem.

Tell your pastor?  No biggie.

Tell a small group of twenty-five people?  Piece of cake.

Tell the entire church, have it recorded, and then posted on iTunes?

Not so easy.

Is this my penance from God?  Is this how He gets back at me for all these years?

(That thought did go through my mind.)

Everyone would now know.

While I was still thinking, or thought I was still thinking, these words came out of my mouth, “Sure, I’ll do it.”

So much for thinking about it.

After a few minutes, I got over my own feelings.  I don’t think that God intended to get even with me.  I trust that He knows things that I don’t.  Maybe the point involved me learning this lesson so clearly that I wouldn’t ever forget it again.

(And in that regards, it was a success.)

Maybe my story might help someone else- someone who also had things go so right and then so wrong, someone who never had things go right, someone who got angry and held resentments against others, or someone who, like me, had been angry at God and blamed him for all the things that had happened.  Maybe it was for someone who knew something was wrong within them but hadn’t found a way to name it.

Or maybe it was just for my sake.  Maybe part of the healing and recovery process is standing up and telling your story again and again and again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

***************************
More posts about my journey in, out, and back into ministry:
“Stay Here” and A Strange Conversation
That Which I Don’t Understand
You Belong Up Here
When They Wouldn’t Accept “No” As An Answer
“No thanks.  I’m really busy.”
“I’m done.  I quit.”
“Why me?  Why here?”
“I Give Up!”

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