Part 6: God shows up while life happens

Posted: August 12, 2014 in Dominican Republic, God's Presence, Holy Spirit, Pastoral ministry
On the last day of our stay in the Dominican Republic, we spent some time on this beach.  And it offered a chance to do some reflection on ministry and calling.

On the last day of our stay in the Dominican Republic, we spent some time on this beach. And it offered a chance to do some reflection on ministry and calling.

Sometimes events in life don’t come with a warning light.  Many times they don’t announce themselves at all — either on their arrival and on their leaving.

Life happens.

Sometime around September 2013, life happened for me.  I don’t know the day that it started, but I know what would come after that.  Sometime in that month, I started a string of health events that would follow me well into this year.  It started with a sinus infection that never really responded to medication.

And things kept building from there.  It would become a series of health events that included continued sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, exposure to the flu, internal infections, an immune system crash and eventually sinus surgery to address an underlying issue.

After spending more than nine months on a combination of steroids and antibiotics, I reached a place of feeling absolutely depleted physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  This ordeal affected my life, my personality, my relationships and my faith.

Every journey brings with it opportunities and costs and this journey was costly.  It cost me days and events and time with those I love the most.  I was sick during key dates with my family: pneumonia and flu during our anniversary and the Christmas holidays, infections during Grace’s birthday and Valentine’s Day, sinus issues and infections during Easter, recovery from surgery on my own birthday and Denise’s birthday.

It also left me limping through some of the biggest seasons in the church: I was ill through Advent, I could barely stand up with pneumonia on Christmas Eve, I was fighting a terrible infection during one of the church’s biggest weekends of outreach, I limped through Lent and Easter and into Annual Conference.  Many Sundays became a time for me to put the energy I did have into sermons and then I would return home and collapse on the couch for the rest of the day.

God and I would have many conversations during that time.  Some of them bore out my anger and my questions.  I kept returning to the Psalms, particularly those of David.  Honestly, there were many days when I was asking God the one-word question of “Why?”

I know that those questions and those struggles that boil underneath will eventually come to the surface.  They came out in my relationships with those I love the most.  They started to make their way into my conversations with others.  Those issues started to work their way into sermons.  There were times I absolutely lost the energy to smile.  Maybe I simply became a little darker and more sullen.

Now, this is where I pause for a moment to make a theological statement.  Sometimes people will say that we shouldn’t express questions, fears, doubts and frustrations (especially when you’re a pastor).  I would challenge those who say that to read the Psalms written by David who is described as a man after God’s own heart.  David has a tendency to ask the questions that others won’t ask and to cry out to God in pain, despair and frustration.

But those things don’t last forever.

Surgery in mid-May improved the sinus issue even if the recovery took longer than expected.  The remnants of the sinus infection appeared again and I would knock it out in late June.  

By the time of the mission trip to the Dominican Republic in early July, I was healing physically.  It was was also starting to impact my healing emotionally and mentally.  

Maybe sometimes there’s a sense that the spiritual aspect of healing is impacted by the other ways that we heal.  In some ways, I was still feeling the affects of a broken and hurting heart.

Then, we finally arrived (after a couple of days of trying) in the Dominican Republic.  Somewhere in that time and that journey together, my healing took a significant step forward.  I had the chance to remember why God called me in the first place and to see it play out before me.

I reconnected with the heart of God by seeing others connect to God’s heart.  I watched young people get excited about being missionaries and I witnessed some of them do things I’d never thought they would do.

There were people there who truly loved God, who loved others and who were doing some amazing things in the name of Jesus.

I talked to other pastors who were there in the Dominican Republic.  I listened to their stories, their journeys of faith and I was reminded so much of my own.

There was a day when I sat on the beach at Puerto Plata and listened to Pastor Fausto share the journey that the had taken to find his place in ministry.  He talked about the church that we had been working with that week.  He shared where he saw God working and the challenges that come with ministry.  And there are those times when the challenges you face lead those in ministry to ask, “Is this really worth it?”

Maybe it was that day, as we sat there on the beach, talking about life and faith and church, that I really started to realize that God was working to heal me and my broken heart.

I remember that verse where Jesus looks at his disciples and says, “I now call you friends…”  I had that thought when we left the Dominican Republic to come home.  I now had friends, those who shared in the same journey, in places like the Dominican Republic and in New York and in Prosperity and Columbia and Greenwood and all across the state.

As I end this series of blogs related to that trip to the Dominican Republic, I realize some things that happened in my life and my heart and the impact they have on the minister that I’m becoming.

Those thoughts:

  • God clearly called me into ministry. 
  • God didn’t call me into ministry because of what I could do.  God called me into ministry because of what God can do through me.
  • My worth in ministry is not determined by a weekly counting of noses (attendance) and nickels (money).  My worth is ministry comes from the calling that God gave to me, is giving to me and will continue to give to me.
  • The Gospel is the bottom line.  It changes everything. It changes me. 
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