Being Prepared for What Has Been Prepared For Us

My husband posted on his personal Facebook page a letter detailing his and our struggle these past three months. And even though this isn’t directly related to our adoption, it has definitely affected it in a way.

I wanted to share his words with you all. Sometimes, especially reading blogs and following people on social media, we tend to forget they’re actual people. With lives similar to our own, and even feelings that can be wounded. So- just to reassure you all (you know, all five of you who read this blog- hi mom!) that we are in fact, a normal family who does not have it all together and is struggling with lots of things, too, I wanted to share Shane’s words here:

I lost my job (again). Three months ago this week I walked to church on a Sunday night, excited to start a new book study with my students. I had just gotten back from a conference 2 days before, and was on a spiritual mountaintop. The worship was great! And the messages? It was like the speakers had prepared them specifically for me, except for the one that was meant to encourage those ministers in a difficult place. That one didn’t really hit home with me at the time. Little did I realize that it would in the week to come, because the bottom was about to drop out of life as I knew it.

In 2003 I preached my first sermon as a 13 year old 8th grader. My parents videoed all 8 minutes of it and it was horrible. You could barley see the top of my head over the pulpit and I never moved from behind it, reading my 3 page manuscript verbatim and rarely stopping to breath. Oh yeah, I almost passed out too. I’m sure it would be hilarious to watch today, but I was mortified at the time. And yet God used that experience to place a burning passion in my heart for preaching and teaching scripture.

In High School I got involved with teaching whenever I was given the opportunity. Preaching in big church, teaching at youth group, whatever I could do. In college I got the chance to teach a senior adult Sunday school class and a 3rd and 4th grade class for extended periods of time (and the 3rd and 4th grade class scared me way more). I spoke in class chapel and I got hooked up with supply preaching through OBU and along the way realized that my plan of being a volunteer youth worker was being replaced by a desire to pursue full-time vocational ministry.

In 2012 I graduated from college, got married, and moved across the state to take my first ministry position as the youth pastor of a small church in small town Oklahoma. The students in our youth group became our family and our friends. We hung out together, did life together, and made disciples along the way. Life was simple and life was great!

Now jump to today. 6 ½ years, 2 kids, 4 houses, and 3 churches later. I lost my job (again). It is a moment when I wonder how this will affect my adoption process? How will this affect my kids? How am I going to tell my wife? It is a moment that all the feelings of unworthiness would come flying back if there was any room in my mind to process them, but fortunately there isn’t.

As I take some time and think back on my 6 ½ years in ministry, frustration and discouragement top the list of emotions. This isn’t what I envisioned as a 13 year old when I preached for the first time. It isn’t what I envisioned as a 22 year old starting my first ministry job. I dreamed of sharing the gospel with students and seeing it make a life changing impact. I dreamed of revival and fellowship and community. And yet every position left brings with it burdens of relationships lost and questions of what if?

Is it my fault? What could I have done differently? Why wasn’t I good enough? Why didn’t it work? Those questions can overwhelm you if you aren’t careful. Fortunately I was too busy packing and job-hunting to have time to deal with them.

This isn’t the life that I dreamed of when I was a teenager. It isn’t what I envisioned for my ministry career. I never dreamed of the toll that church politics would take on both my wife and I. I never fathomed the strain that ministry could place on our marriage. I never thought about how hard it would be to summon up the courage to say, “I lost my job again.” I never thought about having to explain to my kids that we aren’t going back to our old house, we live here now. It never crossed my mind that they would miss their friends, ask about them daily, and talk about going “back home.” No one ever warned me what answering a calling to serve the church would do to the people that I loved most.

And so here we are 3 months later. It has been a struggle. I have made the decision not to pursue being a staff member at a church, because I just can’t go through it all again. So I joined a church as a layperson and it feels so very strange. Preaching was my passion and I haven’t done that in over 3 months now. One unhealthy thing I have learned about myself in this time is that I placed a large part of my identity in what I did rather than whose I was. Preaching and teaching was life. It is so easy to confuse doing things for God for spending time with him. Abiding in Christ is the calling for all believers, and I often substituted that for some lesser form of service. But now that that has been stripped away, I’m picking up the pieces and relearning how to relate to God. I know there is a pathway to working with students and even preaching again, but it takes time. And so now I wait. I wait in the wilderness. I wait in the wilderness, like so many believers before me, on God to show up.

I wait with hope and anticipation that the God who led me into ministry, the God who led me into the wilderness, will lead me into what he has next for me. Every day doesn’t start with hope. Some days start with hopelessness, bitterness, anger, or regrets. Some days I struggle to control my emotions and instead they control me, and the saddest part of all is that going to church on Sunday is one of those triggers. The place that I want so badly to go and be with other believers is the place I often wake up on Sundays and dread going to.

And yet through it all I am finding my place, once again, in a church family that loves us. I’m learning to love the church through the pain it has caused. I’m finding my place in the arms of Christ. I’m finding hope, comfort, and purpose in my Savior. And in time what I theologically/intellectually know to be true, that God has a redemptive plan for me, will become something that I emotionally believe. For now I cry out like that wounded father in Mark and say, “Lord I believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.”

This isn’t what I dreamed of when I was a teenager. But I trust that the God who brought me to this wilderness will lead me through the other side in His time for His glory and my ultimate good.

Ministry is hard….

To my brothers and sisters that are in ministry – Don’t let your ministry define who you are. I love you all and appreciate what you are doing. If you ever need to vent please call/message me.

To all of my friends who aren’t in ministry – Pray for your pastors, they need it more than you know. And say an encouraging word to them the next time you see them. In fact, make it a habit. You may never know the difference that a random text message makes, but I’ve sat on both sides of the desk and can tell you that it means the world.

Beth again, now. We are realizing more and more every day, thanks to the words on one of Shane’s favorite college professors, that this season is about God preparing us for what he has prepared for us. We are clinging to the hope we have in Christ, and knowing that nothing has happened that he didn’t know would happen. Yes, many of our brothers and sisters we thought genuinely loved us have hurt us. And those wounds go pretty deep. But Christians (including us) are imperfect (including us) and are continually being worked on by Christ. Including us. So we are holding fast to God’s love, being thankful for the ways he is providing for us and for our kiddos- including Cynthia. And we are looking forward to the future he has for us.