A dear friend and former coworker of mine that I’ve kept in touch with over the years has moved back into our area with his wife. He’s walked a similar path as me, having been forced out of a church he served for nearly a decade. He had tried to bring the congregation into a new state of growth with plans and programs to reach young families, various ethnicities and socio-economic groups. The traditionalists got increasingly uncomfortable in recent years, and came to a place of deciding their future. The leaders of the church chose to “go down with the ship” so to speak, rather than “repair the holes in the hull.” They basically told him, “This is our church. It was our parent’s church, our grandparent’s church, and our ancestors are buried in the cemetery. We don’t like the direction you are leading us, so we want you to leave.” Which he did, painfully.
My friend had a painful experience leaving his previous church too, one where we had served together. After circulating his resume to churches and non-profits across the country, it appears no one wants to hire someone so “advanced in years”. So after 40 years of faithful vocational ministry in churches, my friend, nearing retirement age, is trying to enter the general workforce, finding his way in the secular career world. Needless to say, he is battling the same fears and concerns I did when I found myself “thrown to the waves” a few years ago.
He and his wife came to church with us Sunday, then he hung out with me and the Phoenix Community pastors Monday. Personally, I’m glad my friend is close by again, and my heart hurts for the struggle he and his wife are in. If Lisa and I can be of any encouragement to them both, given the path we have walked, I hope our proximity to each other will be a benefit. He was always a faithful friend and ally when we served together. Now it’s my time to return the favor.
In my journey, I went through a period of near depression, struggling with anxiety, afraid that God was done with me. I thought that I was being relegated to the shelf, my years of ministry experience accounting for naught. I came to a “sink or swim” moment, where I had to decide to trust God to take care of us, that He still had a plan for my life, would bring much good from the events of my life. Or, I would allow it all to defeat me. I chose to keep my eyes on Christ, and He has not let us down.
My friend is in that place, feeling “kicked to the curb”, struggling with feelings of worthlessness, fearing he is “washed up.” Yet he knows God has always been faithful to him, always held a grand plan for his life. When he comes to his “sink or swim” moment, I know he will choose to trust, choose to swim. New doors will open, new directions emerge, and renewed purpose will fill his heart.
Whether God has beckoned you to step in some way out on the waves with Him, or like my friend and me, you were tossed out of the boat into the storm, choose to keep your eyes and your trust on Jesus Christ. He will insure you not only swim, but will walk with Him on the waves. Matthew 14:22-33