“It is usually better to be obedient than to be miserable…”
Warning – this one is a bit long…
You would think I would get that phrase – especially after having applied it to several different areas of my life as I worked through issues. However, as my wife can attest to, I can be rather bullheaded at times…
The beginning of June has marked a milestone for me in my own personal life. Two weeks ago I did something that I had been running from for a large chunk of my life. I applied for a license to Pastor through my local church.
What prompted this you ask? Three things actually, conviction, misery, and another friend recently doing the same thing. The former two make up the majority of my burden in this issue with the latter being a catalyst to “go for it.”
When I look back over my life there have been several events and situations that seem to confirm my decision. It’s just that for so much of my life I struggled with feeling unworthy of this calling and thus avoided it. (Not realizing that the focus should be on obedience and not how I feel about the situation or decision…)
A middle school friend led me to Christ when I was 12. Within the weeks following this we would often get together and write “sermons” that we would one day hope to preach. (As best as two 12 year old’s could write at the time.)
I also remember that my desire to write these sermons had more to do with me trying to answer the “why, what, how, and when” of Scripture and less to do with the hope of one day preaching them. Writing out these sermons helped me get to those answers as best I could.
(And by the way -this Christian friend of mine was the very first “misfit” in my life. He was the only guy in our Christian school that carried his Bible everywhere he went.)
Even during my teenage years, (and early adult life), where I was far from God, I was always drawn to what I considered the “misfits” of life. Those people that others avoided. I seemed to have a connection with them and they with me. Perhaps because in reality – I was one of those very same “misfits.” (That’s a whole nother story…)
Later, after I got married and our first child was born, I got back into church. I remember plugging into a great Sunday School class that provided a safe place for me to begin to acknowledge some of my deep seeded issues. This was the very beginning of my road to spiritual and emotional healthiness.
After a few years of this class I remember sitting in a Bible study with just men – and the Sunday School leader looked up at me and said, “One day – you are going to teach your own Sunday School class.”
I looked at him in shock and thought to myself, “You’re nuts and no way dude…” The very thought had never really entered my mind. And when it did I kicked it out quickly.
However – a year later I was teaching my own class.Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?
About this same time I also entered our local church’s recovery ministry’s facilitator training. This eventually led to me working through my own issues in recovery followed by facilitating a men’s addiction group. (Again – a story for another day…)
About two years into both the recovery ministry and teaching the Sunday school class, a group of us men decided to go to a local Promise Keeper’s conference in our area. This was often a great opportunity to recharge the batteries along with six to eight thousand other men.
During the event one of the speakers asked us all a question. “If you could do anything in life and not fail at it – what would you do?” He asked us to write our answer down in our program guide.
Immediately my heart jumped and the very first thing that came to my mind was, “Preach, teach, and shepherd people.” However as easy as it was to think this, I had great difficulty writing this down. I just couldn’t bring myself do it.
A friend of mine seated next to me noticed my struggle, or rather the frozen in time posture of my body language, and simply said, “Ha…you’re struggling with writing it down because writing it down makes it real. Means you are acknowledging and committing.”
He had no idea what I was going to write down – but his words had an eerie truth to them at that moment.
I finally wrote it down – and with tears streaming down my cheeks I went forward to the stage, knelt, and prayed that God would somehow give me the courage, strength, and opportunity to do this.
Oh yeah – I also acknowledged to him how terrified I was of all this and how unworthy I still felt.
Remember the term, “opportunity” I just mentioned a second ago in my prayer? Good – keep reading.
After a few minutes I stood back up and went back to my seat in the Raleigh coliseum. No sooner had I sat down then on of the guys in our group got a phone call on his cell. (Yeah – in the middle of the event – although at least it was in the midst of a break.)
My friend looks up at me, extends the phone out towards me, and says, “Eric – it’s for you…”
I thought, “Huh? Who in the world would be calling me on his phone in the middle of a PK event?” Especially considering I had my own phone with me.
I tentatively answered the phone, “Hello?”
“Eric this is Mike – from Lew’s Sunday School class…” Mike was a local Pastor who had been in the same Sunday School class I attended prior to teaching my own. Although we knew each other from the class and had talked some, we didn’t really know each other extremely well. At least not at this time point in our lives.
Mike replied back to me, “Hey…I need to ask you a question. Would you be interested in preaching at my church in 3 weeks for me?”
My heart jumped. My first thought was, “God…you really have a twisted sense of humor.” My second thought was, “Wow God…did you just hear me and respond?”
I was a basket case inside – but in a good way.
My verbal reply to Mike was, “Yes.” and three weeks later I spoke for the first time from a pulpit. Needless to say it was a very humbling experience for me.
So – for the next several years after that life changing event……I sat and waited for an opportunity to fall into my lap. (I told you I was stubborn…)
Well…after a few more years of waiting, (and using that to justify me not moving forward), it finally dawned on me.
For the last several years, through serving in our recovery ministry, youth groups, and adult Bible communities, I have been serving in a pastoral, shepherding role. I just didn’t have the title. Couldn’t bring myself to call myself…a Pastor.
My final act of obedience was to apply for the title. Not simply to have it but rather to obey God and accept what He had called me to do so long ago.
Applying for the official license was another step of me “writing it down” like I did so many years ago.
At that PK event I wrote my heart down to acknowledge it for God.
This second time around I wrote it down to acknowledge it for myself.
Till next time,