A lot has happened in the last ten years, but not like I expected. This was supposed to be the decade (37-47) during which I came into my prime. At least that’s what I thought was supposed to happen; you know…as a pastor, I would finally find myself leading a large, thriving church known far-and-wide for innovation, creativity and significant impact. My reputation as a leader and teacher would finally open doors of influence on a national level. This was the season for me to write a best-selling book about the challenges of life and ministry. Younger brothers and sisters in Christ would turn to me for advice and encouragement. Older saints would welcome me into their esteemed company as a peer; a journeyman who has paid his dues.
My family would be the prime beneficiaries of this newfound success. There would be financial security, minimal stress and a multitude of opportunities to enjoy time together enjoying the fruit of our labor.
All this before I turned 45…
That was the plan. This is the reality:
I’m 47 and after resigning from one church, getting fired by the next, starting a third and watching it fold, I’m now leading a small struggling community. They are wonderful people, but half the time I’m worried that we won’t last another month. And speaking of half…my income from this job is half of what I need to survive. I have another job that I began in an attempt to make ends meet. So far that job has cost me more than thirty thousand dollars and I’ve yet to earn a paycheck.
People my age are supposed to be hitting their stride; financially, career-wise and in every other meaningful way.
Me. I’m limping.
Thankfully, my family is strong. But we’re not without our struggles. Four of the five members in my family have had to deal with life-altering health issues. My wife teaches school because its clearly her gift, but also because if she doesn’t we don’t survive. That’s a heavy load on her strong-but-slender shoulders. We’re tired. And the fatigue takes its toll on our relationships. But what concerns me more than this is the wounds they’ve sustained as pastor’s kids and pastor’s wife. We all wrestle regularly with bitterness, cynicism and ambivilence about church itself.
Ok…so…things have not gone according to plan.
But I’ve recently discovered, in the midst of my pain and disappointment, a most surprising thing.
I am alive.
No, not just a pulse and brain waves; I have a life inside me that has become more real, stronger, more powerful than I thought possible.
I know what I know. And I know that I’m loved, broken, called, flawed, empowered, cracked, forgiven, weak, redeemed, fearful, capable, blundering, strong, arrogant, resilient and anxious.
And I know that the Father is well aware of all these things and yet, He still calls me His own.
As a kid I loved loved jumping off high places into deep water. The fear and exhilaration of hitting the water at a high speed and then sinking deeper and deeper made my heart race. But the best part came when my feet hit bottom; the solid ground under me gave me something to push against and propel me back to the surface.
I couldn’t wait to catch my breath and do it again.
It feels like I’ve been sinking for a while, but at 47, my feet have touched the bottom and I find it solid. I find HIM solid. I find the truth and power of the Gospel, of the Kingdom of Heaven…solid.
So I push off, catch my breath,(I’m still such a kid!) and look for a higher cliff and…