So where do I begin? The path we have been on for the past eight months of our lives has been perhaps the most painful I have ever journeyed down. It would take far too many words to unpack all that happened in the last eight months to my family. Suffice it to say that I was pursued to come back to a church where I had been on staff before for eleven years. The mandate given to me was to reimagine a new expression of "church", one that was different than the current church culture. Some embraced what we were doing, others did not. Some embraced who God has wired me to be, others did not.
The long and short of it is that over the last eight months we've endured quite a bit of scrutiny, some I thought I would not survive. Things were said about me, to my face, in "quiet corners" of the church, and in "Bible studies"... things that were incredibly hurtful and painful. I remember one time quite clearly. I was to meet with our college group, parents, and "concerned" others for a time of "questioning". As we were driving to the church, I looked out the window and began to cry. My daughter looked at me and said, "Daddy, why are you crying?" As I fumbled for an answer, it was then that I realized the pain in my heart, the rejection, the scrutiny, the whispering in the hallways - all this was something that I never wanted my children to undergo. I wanted so much more for them. I still do.
At the end of March, I was approached with the inevitable. I was not a "fit" for the church culture that was there - a decision needed to be made. It was time for a new chapter in our journey.
So here I sit, a little over a month later, thinking about what is next. I wonder what the next chapter of our story will look like. But one thing I know, the past is in the past. It happened and I cannot deny it. Instead, I need to embrace it, acknowledging that it is a part of me, a part of my story. In Jewish thought there is this incredible word - teshuva. It is what we translate as "repent", but the meaning of the word carries so much more depth. It literally means "to return", to return to how God originally made you to be.
This is an incredibly profound concept. It means that I must look at my life and claim what I see there. I need to claim my past. I need to agree that it is not what I wanted. I'm not celebrating it, but I am claiming that it is real, and a part of me. As long as I run from my past, I continue to live a fragmented life, a life filled with disjointed pain. I need to return. I need to claim my past - the hurt, the pain, the things said and not said. They are a part of me.
I may never know "why" I went through what I did. I only hope that I can see beyond the question of "why" and see how God is redeeming and retelling my story in a way that makes sense. I don't know how the story will be redeemed, but I know it will... someday. Maybe one day I'll sit across the table from someone and see myself, and then I'll know, then I'll see. What I went through is not just my story, it's our story. Maybe what I went through is not about me, but about the larger community.
James 1.2-3 lucidly captures this thought. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers [and sisters], whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." I had a friend say once that maybe the perseverance was not about my perseverance, but the perseverance of the faith community. The power of hearing someone else's story is that it gives us hope. When I hear someone tell their story and see that they're making it, I can look at my life and say, in hope, "I can make it too." God is not finished with their story. He is not finished with mine. There are more chapters to be written.
And so it is with the life of my family. So it is with mine. There are more chapters to be written.
I look forward to putting the pieces back together in our lives. I look forward to gaining a vision of the expression of ministry that is holistic to who we are and how we are wired. God is not finished with us. Jamie and I start counseling next Saturday, and we're so excited. The person we're going to see was recommended by a friend I trust immensely. What I am most encouraged with is that he's not from the traditional "evangelical" expression of Christianity. John is endowed with amazing wisdom, grace, honesty, and a depth of spirit that is rarely found. He is a passionate follower of Jesus, who is more of a spiritual director than just a "counselor". I'm personally looking forward to the journey with John. My prayer is that it will be redeeming and profoundly restoring.
Teshuva. Teshuva. Teshuva. I want to return, God, to how you originally made me to be.