November 20, 2012

A friend of my just left his church without a new call. He has entered this wasteland of worries and fears, of financial strains and internal struggles. He has entered this time of waiting and wondering if God has left him entirely. I ache for him. Because I know that wasteland well.

You are forgotten. You go from being centered in a congregation to being alone, alienated. You go from being part of an active ministerium to being a lone-ranger. You go from living in your call, hard though it may be, to wondering if you ever really had a call. You go from connection to your colleagues to the realization that your colleagues are too busy for you, just like you would be for them, if the roles were reversed. You go from conference (district/superintendent/bishop) support to a conference that puts you on a list and doesn’t remember you.

Wasteland… that’s how it seems. Barren and bare. Cold and wild. Lonely. Quiet. Empty. Scarce. Scary. Dark.

I ache for my friend.

I do not know all that occurred in his church or ministry. I imagine there is more than the little I have heard. I imagine there is no clear side that is innocent of all failing. But none of that matters now. What matters to me is how he’s handling this rude and sudden transition.

And whether he will find rest.

When you enter that wasteland, it’s easy for other pastors to say to you, “Use this time to rest.” They are not wrong, but it’s easy. Too easy. Try sleeping in a cold wild desert. While thirsty and starving. With strange sounds. Without comforts to help. Alone. And in the dark quiet, try ignoring the screaming in your head and heart that rages about how much of a “failure” you must be, how you must have never been “called,” how God must have “forgotten” you. It’s not easy to rest.

And yet, having slept many night on the rocks of a wasteland, it’s still true. To believe that there will be streams and pastures in this wasteland. To believe that God will feed you manna and quail. To know that while you walk through this, for as long as it takes, your shoes will not wear out. It’s all true. Hard to believe. But all true.

So I’m praying today that my friend will find this sooner than later. It took me longer than I wanted it to. And I’m still in a strange land- not a wasteland really, but whatever comes after that. But I know that I’m stronger for having slept on those rocks, in the dark, listening to the strange noises, cold and alone in the emptiness of barren space. I got stronger. And so will he.

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