After 11 months, I have finally come to grips with the fact that God has called me to the Midwest. I grew up in Southern California. After several years on the east coast and in the good ole south, I finally made it back to Cali, where I thought I belonged. Well obviously God had other plans. After a series of unfortunate events, my wife and I landed on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi River. It gets cold here. Really cold. Like twenty degrees below zero insanely cold. Not to mention the humidity is stifling in the summer.
So after 11 months, after resigning to the fact that God is in control, I must sit back and ask Him what is next. Ultimately I know the answer, and I am already doing what I believe God wants me to do; yet somewhere deep down inside I feel like I spent ten years in tobacco fields (not literally, but surrounded by them in the south) and it was time for me to go home to my family. After all, California is a depraved state, is it not? What better place to do ministry? But alas I must remember that there is just as much of a need here where I am now as there is anywhere else. I am within a day trip drive to Chicago, Detroit, Saint Louis, Green Bay, or Minneapolis.
So now I must forget those things which are behind (for now) and press on.One thing is for sure; growing up around L.A. I am I die hard Rams fan and I WILL make it to St. Louis for a game before I leave this area. So in the end I ask "Lord, what now" not in disappointment, but in excitement to see what new challenges and adventures await me!
Extended transition. This is the best way I can describe the stage of life I am in right now. If ever you have had someone close to you go through a trying time in their life, surely several Bible verses and Christian cliches run through your mind and out of your mouth to them. "God will not give you more than you can handle" ranks toward the top of the list, as does "All things work out good for those who love God, who have been called according to his purpose." Of course we want to be encouraging and help them see that they can and will make it through. I have learned, however, that sometimes people who are hurting or facing a difficult situation just want someone to be there for them, without trying to "fix" their problem for them.
Several years ago I was a Youth Pastor in a rural church in "The South". There was a young girl just entering her teenage years who was battling an illness known as aplastic anemia. Shortly after I arrived at the church this young girl was scheduled to go through a routine operation, which was supposed to make her much better as I understand it. The young girl died unexpectedly on the operating table. I was asked to go to the middle school at which she was a student to help with grief counseling. This young girl was extremely happy and friendly, and was friends with virtually every person at her middle school.
I found myself giving all of the pat answers to the students as well as other people in the church; "she's in a better place now", "she is no longer in pain", and "you will be able to see her again someday". However I found that most of these were met with angry looks, rolled eyes, or no look at all. I found that what people needed was to be able to grieve and move on. So, I put together a memorial service during which people were encouraged to come forward and share happy times and fond memories.
The point is that sometimes we simply need time to heal. As a Youth Pastor I am telling you that ministry is tough, thankless, and unforgiving most of the time. Cancer is no respecter of persons. And so my wife and I have been in an extended transition for the last year or so. Nevertheless God remains faithful. I have been able to continue in youth ministry, and Lisa has recovered and is teaching in a Christian school. I am eagerly waiting for God to show us what His will is for us, although I know that it most likely will not appear in the form I desire or expect.