Monday, July 23, 2007

Yeah, me too!

I realize that many of you reading this attend and love our former church. Really, in most ways, I love our former church. Many of you, we love and miss very much. We are thankful for the friendships that have lasted through this transition time, and we know that those friendships are stronger than the lines drawn because we attend a different congregation.

Like Larissa, I've tried to keep many of the details of our situation off the blog. I'm not interested in causing dissension. I'm not trying to rally my troops or ask people to join my side. Because I love the people that work for and attend our former church so much, I really don't want to share anything negative about it. I don't want my negative feelings to effect how you feel about your church home. I don't want my rantings to spread ugliness about our former church to strangers. I don't want my struggles to effect the witness this congregation could have on the community. Or worse, I don't want an unbeliever to stumble upon this post and think that all churches are bad. I just need to share my journey, my feelings, God's victory in my life. In fact, I really want you to try to forget where this happened and just listen to how God has worked in our lives since then. And truly, if that isn't possible for you, please don't read this post, or maybe the next several . . . I'm not sure how long this will take.

Last September Honey and I spent a few hours one night cleaning out his office at the church, and as we drove away with what was left of his entire youth ministry career packed in the back of the suburban, I felt . . . completely unable to put into words the feelings that were in my heart. Until recently. I read somewhere, someone said, "I love Jesus, but I hate church." I wish I could remember, because they aren't my words, just my feelings. I want to thank whoever wrote that for putting my thoughts on paper so I would know where to start in processing all of this.

When I read Larissa's post I realized that we'd been through a divorce, of sorts. The emotional numbness, betrayal, anger, hurt, grief, abandonment, all of that was there. We'd put our hearts and souls into the ministry, kids, families, and activities. The people of the congregation were our life. We didn't know anything else. Our own children didn't know anything else. And one day, without warning or explanation, it was gone. Our life changed in a matter of moments and there was nothing we could do about it.

Like Larissa mentioned, we were also dealing with a death. It was the death of our way of life. It was the death of what we thought "shepherds" were supposed to be. It was the death of the dreams we had for the youth group, and the dreams we had for the individual kids that we were blessed to spend as much time with as our own children, that we loved like our own children. Not only was Honey's job gone, but our purpose was gone. We lived to be youth ministers. We loved calling teens to be followers of Jesus. We were called by God to minister to teens and their families, and we embraced it fully.

During those first few weeks, we were completely lost. I remember taking many walks with Honey, hoping the crisp fall air would clear our minds and let God lead our next move. We didn't have a back-up plan. We never seriously thought about what Honey would do after youth ministry. We joked about it. Some crazy situation would come up with the ministry, and I would say, "Honey, after youth ministry you could lead "hide and seek" expeditions." Or after planning an entire week of summer camp, I'd say, "After youth ministry, you could design challenges for reality TV. You're great at this."

The only hope we found was knowing that we'd been praying for guidance as we juggled the lives of our own young children with the demands of a growing youth ministry, and that in some twisted, beautiful, supernatural way, this was an answered prayer.

Our friends and mentors were a source of great support and encouragement through those first few weeks. We felt loved and cherished by the members at the church and we thought that because we loved them so much we could get through the awkwardness of it all and continue to attend there. Our own kids loved it there, and since their little lives had already changed so much, we didn't have the heart to change that, too. Honey and I felt we could find a new place to fit in. Instead of starting completely over.

And I guess this is where our situation begins to differ with Larissa's. Aside from the fact that, you know, her betrayal came from her husband, not her job. I can't even begin to imagine how the pain is magnified coming from your spouse, knowing the pain we felt. But, eventually, we were able to escape the situation, distance ourselves from the awkwardness. When we decided to leave the congregation and find a new church home, our family could do it together. "We're in this together" never meant so much. We were able to visit new places and forge new relationships, together. Honey and I have been able to work together to walk our kids through this life change. We've been able to help each other work through the hurt. We've been able to lean on each other as our financial situation has been in flux.

Now, 10 months later, I can look back on the journey this far and say, I'm glad we're out of youth ministry. As much as we love and miss the kids and their families, we do not miss all the other stuff. We have loved every minute of the time Honey has been home this summer. I know that there are many husbands that travel for work, but 8 years of home a week, gone a week summer travel, and busy, 70 + hour work weeks during the school year was enough for us. Now that we see life from a slowed down pace, we love it. We've discovered that one of our God given purposes is ministry to our own kids. And we love the freedom to serve Christ boldy and as the Holy Spirit moves us, instead of the timidness that comes with wondering what the elders will think or how it will effect the way people view the church we work for or the ministry we're involved in. The only one we have to answer to is God. And although that's how we should have felt this whole time, we are really living it now.


The Binkley Family said...

Thank you for opening this book of your journey to us. I know that you truly have a testimony of how God can work through trying times.

A D said...

I totally get it. And even though I don't know the details I know and have seen how "politics" can even invade a church demographic. We love you and support you in all you do.

jen at Conversations said...

Thanks April and Jennifer for your support over the last months.