Friday, April 8, 2011

My Pastor, My Friend

My pastor resigned this week. He’s moving to another church. I’ve worked in ministry for over 20 years and I’ve seen lots of pastors come and go, but it’s going to take me a while to wrap my brain around this one.

My pastor is not just the leader of my church. He’s not just my boss. He is my friend. He has listened to me sob bitter tears of grief. With great grace, he has patiently endured my anger, hurt and frustration. He has been my small group leader and his wife is my dear friend. His daughters are my daughter’s favorite babysitters.

We first visited our church almost seven years ago. We visited because some kids at school had invited our older daughter. Our first visit was in early June, 2004. We visited one or two more times before the landscape of our lives was forever altered by our daughter's death. Just three weeks after that first visit, the coroner was asking me who my pastor was. We hadn’t been at our church long enough for me to consider it home, and I felt like my pastor was at our old church 2,000 miles away.

The days that followed that short meeting with the coroner were a haze of funeral and travel arrangements, sympathy cards, flowers, and thank you notes. But by August, I found myself writing “Thank you for the lovely flowers” for the last time, and I was petrified! What would I do when there were no more arrangements to be made, no more thank you notes to be written? I was already struggling with the fact that there would be no more soccer games or concerts, no more grade cards to worry about, no more proms, not to mention that there would never be a graduation to attend, colleges to visit, a wedding to plan or grandchildren born to our daughter.

I had no idea who I was or why I was here. I had no purpose. I had no place to be and nothing to do. But the day I wrote that last thank you note, I got a call from the senior pastor of our new church inviting me to come and talk with him about a project he was hoping I would do. I made the appointment for the next day. I didn’t care what the project was, I just needed something to do!

The next day, my pastor spent almost three hours with me, sharing his vision, answering my questions about this denomination that was unfamiliar to me and listening to me grieve. I’ve never had a pastor invest that kind of time in me.

That original volunteer project never did get done. But I ended up with a part-time job at the church. But it was so much more than that for me.

At a time when I had no reason or desire to get out of bed in the morning, this man offered me hope—hope that God still had a plan for my life—hope that I still had a purpose. He gave me some place to be—a reason for getting out of bed in the morning and I will always be grateful for that.

I understand why they’re leaving and I believe it’s the right thing for them to do. We’ll get a new pastor and I’m sure he’ll be great, I may even like his wife. But my pastor and his family will always hold a very dear place in my heart and I will miss them very much.

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I would love to hear from you! Let me know what you think and how I can pray for you. Most of us are carrying some pretty heavy baggage and the good news is, you don't have to carry it alone! You can lay it at the feet of Jesus, and sometimes we need help just letting go of our baggage and not picking it up again. We're in this together!