trials often hide blessings

Thursday, July 03, 2008

So if you find life difficult because you're doing what God said, take it all in stride. Trust him. He knows what he's doing, and he'll keep on doing it.
1 Peter 4:19, The Message

Eight years ago, we left our previous church.

My husband had served as part time music minister there for more than 5 years. My son was born during that time. Both FirstHusband and I taught Sunday school. He even served as interim youth minister for a while. I sang in the choir FirstHusband directed and we practiced while our toddler son played hide and seek in the pews. We built Christmas parade floats, volunteered at harvest carnivals, sang and acted in Christmas plays and ate a lot of potluck dinners. We had friends there. We laughed a lot. Leaving was . . . difficult, to say the least.

I've seen my husband cry three times since I met him. Once at the birth of our son. Once at the birth of our daughter. And once, as he read his letter of resignation to our church family. As I stood next to him, and read part of the letter because he was unable to continue, I can tell you.

I. was. angry.

Someone was hurting my husband. And I didn't like it.

Our first pastor, who had started this church, had accepted a position in which he would have an opportunity to help start many new churches. Somehow, I ended up as the chair of the pastor search committee.

To make a very, very, very long and painful story short, the church called a pastor that, in the end, FirstHusband and I could not trust or support. In the end, his behaviors and words were very much different from the man he represented himself to be in his interviews. We had very different ethics. We had very different goals.

FirstHusband and I had to decide. Do we stand and attempt to hold this man accountable for his actions? Or do we leave?

During the weeks before we finally made the decision, we prayed. A LOT. We talked. A LOT. We didn't believe we could stay without causing the church to split. Somewhere along the way, FirstHusband remembered a conversation between the characters of a book written by one of his favorite authors, Will D. Campbell:

“I guess what I really believe is that neighborhoods get reissued. You know, the community.” . . .

. . . “You know what ‘community’ is,” Doops said, his voice rising with impatience. “It’s a bunch of folks getting along for some reason. Something holds them together. Generally something bad. Like me and you and Kingston. Hell, if we had met at the circus we probably wouldn’t even have liked one another. But this damned army, this idiot war, holds us together. Being miserable seems to hold folks together. But when they’re easy and everything is going right, they drift apart. Everybody goes home for a funeral and that’s all.”

Kingston dropped his head, the look on his face that of a little boy caught in mischief. Doop’s last words made him think of home, of his mother and grandfather. He felt a sadness but now he did not want Doops to stop, nodded his head for him to go on.

“And that’s all I’m talking about,” Doops continued. “Nobody needs nobody when they’re happy. But it just happens. We don’t make it. We don’t make community any more than we make souls. It’s created."

“And you think we were around somewhere else? Some other time?” Kingston asked, looking at Doops and Model T as one, in a way he had never looked at them before. Neither of them appeared to notice.

“I said the community was around,” Doops said. “Maybe, as you put it, there a neighborhood quiver. And the Great Whoever reaches back and shoots off a dose of community from time to time when one is needed somewhere. When it fits His gameplan. You know, maybe there’s only room in the world for just so many communities. Not souls. Communities. Like, the Lord not only created planets. He created communities. A solar system and a community system. And they go on spinning. All in place. All where they’re supposed to be and when. Each one pushing the other away and holding it close at the same time. And they go on spinning. Different times maybe, but they go on.”

“What’s the difference between a community and a country?” Kingston asked.

“Size,” Doops said. He answered quickly, as if he’d been waiting for the question, wanting it to be asked. “And kings. A community doesn’t have a king, a ruler. Everybody is equal. Now, it might start out as a community. But then somebody wants to improve on it, make it better because it gets bigger. And when it starts choosing captains, whammo! No more community. And that’s when it gets put back in the quiver. Waiting to get reissued.

“Or maybe the difference between a community and a country is that a community has a soul and a country doesn’t. Because God created the community and man created the country. Some king sees all these communities around and says, ‘Hoboy! Let’s put ‘em all together and rule over ‘em.' And then he promptly f@#%’s it up.”

No one spoke. They sat together in silence, each one staring at the space immediately in front of him.

from “The Glad River” by Will D. Campbell

We didn't want this community to go back into the quiver.

To make a very, very, very long and painful story short, rather than following the Ten Easy Steps to Church Purity, we finally decided to follow the wisdom of Solomon. FirstHusband wrote a resignation letter that was filled with how much the church had blessed us and how much we would miss everyone - but gave no indication of why we were really leaving.

We were willing to give up our church rather than see it die.

How would things have turned out if we had stayed? We'll never know. We only see the path we DID take. It's a path we didn't want to face at the time. But, in hindsight, the journey we started as we left nearly 8 years ago has been one I am grateful for. A new church, many new friends, many blessings, an annual book rummage sale I LOVE to work (and shop)! And our pastor - a Will Campbell fan too! Eight years ago, the trials were looming, hiding all these blessings! But today, from this vantage point, we can see them clearly.

This Sunday is the beginning of a new path. Our Will Campbell loving (Methodist) pastor has been promoted and our new pastor's first day at the pulpit is July 6th. When I first heard our pastor was leaving, I didn't want him to leave. Part of me wants to hear him preach on Sunday. But part of me is curious. What blessings are ahead?

So what happened to our "old" church? In the end, it died anyway. After splitting. Twice.

The new church building that pastor worked so hard to get, now stands empty. Ready for a new congregation. A new fellowship. A new community.

"To choose to suffer means that there is something wrong; to choose God's will even if it means suffering is a very different thing . . . God puts His saints where they will glorify Him, and we are no judges at all of where that is."
Oswald Chambers,
My Utmost for His Highest,
(Selection from August 10th)

Posted by Julie Stiles Mills at 7/03/2008 02:43:00 PM  

2 comments:

Love that Oswald Chambers quote!

I can identify with much of this. We left a church after 25 years due to issues. Difficult decision, but one which clearly had God's hand leading us to make. And we've been blessed beyond belief in our new church.

Thursday, July 03, 2008 10:12:00 PM  

Thank you for testifying of the Lord's faithfulness. Obedience is hard, no two ways about it. My heart is heavy, my eyes are surely cried dry, but my faith is strong. He knows the way that I take and when He has tested me, He will bring me forth as gold.

He must.

He is our only hope.

Thanks, friend.

Lisa writes... said...
Thursday, July 03, 2008 10:36:00 PM  

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