I never saw it coming.
For eleven years, my husband and I had been serving in our organization. We’d performed the traditional duties of pastors and all that entails in a group described as “more than a church.” I handled most of the administrative side of things, planning Sunday services, overseeing and leading youth programs, women’s ministry and miscellaneous activities. He preached on Sundays, drove the church van when needed, took part in community groups and was the front man for our organization in our communities.
Then, the phone call that changed everything.
I left that morning for a regional youth workers conference. I cried most of the way on the 2-hour drive. We were being transferred. The timing was unexpected; the location and new duties not in my realm of possibility.
We had been handpicked for our current appointment. Our leaders envisioned us starting a ministry with the students at the University of Florida. We’d spent almost three years in Gainesville, FL. It had only been in the past year we had begun to see students connecting and getting involved. Now we had to leave.
Our whole course of ministry was being changed with one phone call. One call telling us we were being transferred to Memphis, TN to run an Adult Rehabilitation Center. This was a residential program for men, most of whom had substance abuse issues.
Here I am, Lord. Send me?
While I sobbed, my husband adjusted to the change quickly, considering the new challenge ahead.
A lot of tears were shed that first year. I was having difficulty finding my place in this boy’s club. I’d grown up around guys and had never been intimidated by them but my role was different. They looked at me like some kind of den mother, and I wasn’t interested in playing that role. They were grown men, and I wanted them to act like grown men. Instead they were stunted in their emotional growth, some in middle-school purgatory. Purgatory for me, that is.
This whole ministry thing was my husband’s mid-life crisis. That what I called it. He was 40 and had been in business for himself since the early days of our marriage. We were active in our local church and both pastor’s kids growing up with our denomination’s tradition of moving its pastors.
I knew he’d had these thoughts, but we’d decided the timing wasn’t right and this was a package deal in our denomination. Both spouses are ordained and serve. I’m not the pastor’s wife type.
This time, he felt God’s call heavy on his heart. This time, I was able to say if that’s what God is calling you to, I’m there, with you, wherever. That whole “send me” part of answering God’s voice is a bit weightier when you know your average stay in one appointment will be three years.
It feels innocent and naïve to say to God, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.” Surely we don’t know what we’re answering. In Isaiah’s vision, it wasn’t pretty. The description is dark and rather scary. I don’t understand why God is telling Isaiah to make their hearts hard, ears deaf and eyes blind (Isaiah 6:10). Our calling is to open the eyes of the blind so they will see Jesus. Isn’t it?
I want it to feel good, all of the service given to God’s people whether it’s from volunteers or employed, lay ministers or those in vocational service. I want to see the good works we’re doing and for all God’s people to agree with our vision and rise up and say, “YES! Me too, I’m with you. You can count on me.” As they come around us to serve hand-in-hand with smiles on their faces.
From the beginning, we were met with skeptics about our lack of pastoral experience and associate ministers who wanted nothing to do with us.
We’ve been as imperfect as the folks we serve. We make mistakes, both small and big. My feelings get hurt when people disagree with our ideas and a bit puffed up when they all think we’re wonderful.
We weren’t seduced into this life by stories of how wonderful it would be. Jesus tells anyone who wants to follow him we must deny ourselves. He says there is a cross, a weight, we must carry if we follow him. But we are naïve or just plain thickheaded and don’t think he means us. Not you and me. No, it will be different. But it isn’t.
And still we go.
We have been cussed out, but not persecuted. We’ve had long time members quit the church in disagreement with us but we’ve proclaimed His truth. We’ve left our children in different cities and states but know that distance doesn’t separate us from their love.
We offer what we have, our meager gifts, broken ways and bruised hearts. We offer these to follow Him.
In the middle of one life, we pick up and follow Him into another. Where He leads, let us follow.I want to say 'Here I am,' but sometimes I want to accompany them with complaints, doubts and fears.Click To Tweet
When I’m not working alongside my husband in a shared ministry to men in recovery, I enjoy working to improve my skills in photography, writing and painting. We’re beach and boat loving South Floridians, and I make some of the best sweet tea you’re likely to have. If laughing were a sport, I’d be a champion!
You can read more by Debby at Living In Graceland.
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