Many moons ago, Joe and I served as part-time staff at a church in San Diego. We ran a Sunday morning service for junior highers - worship, games, message - the works. Our pastor (who hired us) was brand new to our church, and went about transforming it into a more seeker-friendly, healthier place. He taught us so much about what a healthy church is. We were being primed to come on board full-time. Working with he and his wife changed our lives to the point that we were ready to make that jump.
However, the denomination was not taking care of our pastor. He came to a church that was massively in debt, and the denomination had promised to help him. But, they didn't follow through on their promise. The church had sprouted from under 100 to almost 500 in only 18 months, with over 100 people accepting Christ. Even with all of the growth and people coming to the Lord, there was a small group of old-timers (this was a 50-year-old church) who didn't like change. They were vocal about their discontent, and brought constant discouragement to our pastor. Some started leaving, which was a good thing. Our pastor continued to go to the denomination's leaders for help with the financial burden that the previous pastor had been allowed to attain. The church couldn't even pay their electric bill. The denomination refused to help, so our pastor had to make a decision to leave. This broke our hearts. We loved them, and we loved what was happening to the church and the people.
There was one glimmer of hope for our pastor staying, when we decided to go on a three week vacation. We talked about our excitement of joining the ministry the whole time. When we got back, our pastor was gone. We came to church to do the junior high service, and the group of old-timers who had left were back that very Sunday. They were walking around the campus, as if they were claiming their territory. It made me physically sick. We left the next Sunday and joined our pastor at another church he was invited to be the pastor of in a nearby city.
The church our pastor came to, was a brand new church, whose pastor had only planted it, and then left. It met in a high school. There was about 150 people. There was already staff and volunteers, so we began volunteering in one of the children's classes. Soon after, Joe began sensing that he was to get out of the Navy. We kept taking steps forward, and he got his job up here in the Northwest.
Leaving there was difficult for me, because it meant leaving the dream of ministry. Things had changed dramatically when our pastor left our church to go to the new one, so it made it easier to leave. But, I still wonder if we would have eventually come on board at the new church. I think we would have.
When we were visiting in San Diego this week, we got to go see a construction project at our pastor friend's church. The church that met in that high school with 150 people, is now over 4,000 people! They are in their final phase of building projects, building a 1600-seat auditorium!! It is so exciting. I am so proud of our friends, but I also had some angst and sadness with what could have been.
I had a little talk with the Lord about it. I know I shouldn't live in the past or live in the "what ifs," but still. I asked God to show me what the angst means, and what I can learn from it now. I asked Him to help me figure out what to do with it, and be happy with my life now. The thing is, is I don't know if I have been quite as deeply happy and fulfilled as when we were immersed in the ministry with our friends. I was in my 20's, and I remember literally thinking to myself "I am SO happy with my life!" The relationships we shared, were bonds that I have not had again in my life. I experienced something I have not experienced since - a richness, fullness, giving and receiving of love with other Christ-followers. It's been hard to let it go....
When we moved to the Northwest, I was desperately looking for those kinds of bonds and fulfillment in church. I didn't find it. The church I poured myself into, couldn't give me that kind of love and encouragement. I think it was part of the reason for my burnout. It's been very painful.
Now, here I am. At a new church, but burned out and not doing a thing. I love the Lord, but don't quite know where my place is anymore. I'm going to college right now, which is something I've always wanted to do, but I pretty much picked "ultrasound" out of a hat as something to pursue. I think I love the medical field, and it looks like a great job to earn good money. But, seriously, if somebody asked me to join the ministry full-time, I would do it. My secret is, I love the ministry. I would love to be a speaker and a leader. Our pastor friend from San Diego told us once that we would never be satisfied not leading, because that's who we are. I think it's true.
So, how did we end up where we are today? I don't know. I'm trying not to look back, or spend my life wishing for some other life. But, there's that angst. Why do I have it? Should I ignore it or pay attention to it? Is the true longing of my heart to be in full-time ministry? Is it my true calling, or am I just making that up? I just have this deep, nagging feeling that I would be the most happy and the most fulfilled serving God and the church in a full-time capacity. Is it a silly, dreamer's dream that is a grandiose idea of mine? Or, is it God's dream for me? Would it have to be both Joe and I doing it, or could it be just me? I'm not sure. When I dream of it, I see it being the two of us, but I just don't know.....
God is up to something in my husband's life right now, but only time will I tell what comes of it. My secret thought is that maybe it has something to do with this dream of mine, but maybe that's just my grandiose thinking.....I'm just going to keep going. Talking with God, reading the Word, living my life, I guess. I don't know what else to do!