What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise
--from Blessings by Laura Story
I've been reflecting on the past year, and the song "Blessings" by Laura Story comes to mind. If you've never heard it, I'd encourage you to take a moment to allow the words to speak to you, to challenge you; these words are the cry of my soul. It's so hard to see when faced with pain, betrayal, and brokenness how God is there. We feel so abandoned and defeated. All too often it is only when we're on the other side looking back do we see the mercies of the experience, the healing that God has brought.
Last summer P and I experienced devastating pain in a community of faith where we had formed deep bonds and thought we would raise our children. To have that experience of community suddenly taken from us due to decisions out of our control, and without the opportunity to experience closure was very painful. There were many mistakes made on all sides, but losing those I counted as friends without being able to honestly talk about what was happening was very difficult for me. Both P and I have felt a call to ministry and this experience gave us pause. If this was what ministry was like, we wanted no part of it; it was too painful. We also felt that we were ready to walk away from the church in general. Our faith was not shaken, but our faith in the messy thing we call "church" was.
Eleven months later I can finally say that last summer was truly a great blessing. Countless tears have washed away the bitterness and doubt that consumed me. And I am truly thankful for the experience. Even five months ago I would have told you that you were crazy if you told me that I would be thankful. But I truly am. P and I grew and learned to depend on and support one another in new ways...I also was reminded about just how much of a risk any relationship is. When you pour yourself developing a relationship and care deeply, the other has more power to wound (intentionally or not). We must all be careful stewards of this power and those who offer themselves in relationship.
Another piece of the blessing is how that painful experience allowed us be open to new directions. If you know me well, you know that I like to have a plan, to know what's expected and to stick to that plan! Our plan was for me to teach five years, then to stay home to raise our kids...here I am at the end of year three packing away my apples and stickers in order to explore ministry--the very thing I was ready to walk away from last July.
God allowed the pain of these past months, but at the same time, was very active. God was preparing both of us for the decisions about jobs, the future of our family, and who we are as witnesses to Christ in this broken world. During Bible study Wednesday evening, we were reading the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:10a, "By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace in me was not without effect" (NIV). Those words resonated deep within me. It is through the grace of God I have been able to heal from many experiences the last three years in H, and that grace is not only the grace of healing. I can hardly count the ways God's sweet grace has touched my life. While I did not recognize it at the time, that grace was having an effect on me. God was forming me and providing the opportunities to turn to Him when I was crushed by the brokenness of this world. God was preparing me for the opportunity to step out in faith and trust. Now in a few weeks I begin one of the biggest challenges of my life--daring to call myself a pastor. I have such a peace about the next chapter in our lives--a peace that can only come from the Spirit. I am humbled by the opportunity to serve God and the church in this way. I certainly don't claim to have all the answers or to know the will of God, but I do know the power and grace of our Amazing God and the healing and hope that can only be found in Him. I praise Him for the opportunity to seek after Him in a new community of faith. I know we will have much to learn from one another as we are humble before Christ.