Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year, Old Me

New Years is always about looking forward and starting fresh. For many, there is a clean slate involved somewhere in the foray. Resolutions are made, broken. Dreams are toasted with a little sparkling cider or champagne.

In previous years, I have participated in the celebration and Auld Lang Syne. I made resolutions. I broke them, usually by the 15th of January. I looked ahead to dreams and plans that were not really my own, which is why they were so easy to break. There was no passion or commitment to see them through. Why? Because they really, ultimately, did not matter.

Seriously, does the world become a better place because I lose a few pounds? Read more? Play more tennis? Drink more/less coffee? Watch less TV? Finish the novel? Does it matter? Does it change lives? Does it feed the hungry? Shelter the cold? Get people off drugs? Heal broken homes?

Nah. It makes no difference whatsoever.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Star Trek: Generations. from a film critic standpoint, it was very disappointing. I admit that the first time I saw it, I felt cheated. My best friend Jay drove all the way from Greenville at 90 mph to catch the premier with me. I think he felt cheated as well. However, there are some personal moments in the film that redeem it, at least for me. There are moments of personal discovery for many of the characters that are brought about by terrible circumstances. My personal favorite is where Captain Kirk, on a horse in the temporal nexus, realizes that, "Since I left starfleet, I haven't made a difference." Spock once told him (Star Trek 2) that for him to do anything other than command a starship is a waste of resources. My friend Dan has been trying to tell me since I left the ministry in 2004, that for me to do anything else is a waste. I disagreed for a long time. A long time. Seven years to be exact.

Let's look at my stats. Since I left the ministry, I have had 11 jobs in 7 years. I broke my arm living out a childhood fantasy of pro wrestling. I have lost a home, a car, and another marriage. I have moved 5 times. I have come to believe that I cannot do anything right. Other than being a father, nothing I have done since ministry has given me a real sense of purpose. All of my education and training is in ministry. I have tried to find another niche. I really have. but I can't. Teaching is as close as I have come to being totally fulfilled since ministry. I have lost the respect of my children and my closest friends and have hurt and disappointed a lot of special people.

The story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32 has never hit as close to home to me as it has this year. The prodigal son had it all and squandered it. Consequently, he ended up separated from his father and living in a pig pen of sorts. I feel the same way. I had it all. I was pastor of a great church. I had the American dream. Though my first marriage ended against my will, I chose a life of bitterness and anger that would ultimately affect my health and nearly every relationship in my life, leaving me in an emotional and spiritual pig pen. Like the Prodigal Son, I guess I have had enough of the pig pen now. I want to go home. I don't want anything from God. I don't want to be the next SBC president or have my own theme park. I just want to be with Him. For it is there where I feel safe and where things matter. That is where passion and commitment reside. That is where difference is made.

In all fairness, I have accumulated baggage that I have to give account for. I have made bad choices and wrong turns. But if my Father will let me come home, I will do all I need to be restored. It won't be like it was before. I know that. But I want to be there, wherever it is. Teaching, preaching, or whatever. I want to be there. I want to make a difference. In working for Jamestown Coffee, I have rediscovered ministry. Who knew coffee could do that?

So, no resolutions this year. I am going home to my Father and back to who I am (some of you will remember that Paul Smith song from the 80s). See you all in 2012.

Oh yeah...Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Transitions

A season of change is upon me. Actually, I have come full circle. Let me explain with a bit of backstory.

You see, this blog was born out of bitterness, as evidenced by my very first post. I was going through the most awful time in my life, and a good friend suggested that I use blogger to vent and process. Before 2004, I had it all by the world's standards. I was a pastor, I had a wife and three amazing children, a cat, a dog, two cars, and a 4 bedroom house in a nice neighborhood. Appearances can be deceiving, however, and material things are not a guarantee of happiness. Often, the opposite is true.

My wife of 13 years left me for another man. My church asked for my resignation. Many (not all) of my friends threw me under the proverbial bus. Suddenly, a life devoted to God became a life devoted to being angry at God. I have been mad at so many people for so long. It has affected my mental and physical health.

I remarried in 2004, and I made a short "comeback" to the ministry in 2006, but I wasn't ready for either. Now the second marriage is only days away from being over.

For the last 14 months, I have been wondering how my life got so far off track. I have spent many nights in my apartment, alone, weeping, yelling, and trying to pray. I wanted answers. God gave me none. I wasn't ready. I resolved that I was to remain alone for the rest of my life. I know that sounds melodramatic. I apologize. Sometimes it just comes out. But I meant it. I was going to remain single. Period.

This past March, someone walked into my life. She was someone I knew from 10 years earlier. When I saw her, I felt my heart skip a beat. I am certain I heard fireworks. I believe it was love at first sight. Laura is a strong Christian. Since day one, she has made me want to be a better man. She has shown me what a bitter man I have been. She makes me feel a happiness that no one else ever has. I really, truly, deeply love her. I didn't mean to, and I sure didn't want to.

So anyways...I have been feeling the tug to return to the ministry lately. I have NO idea in what capacity. I just know that nothing else I do gives me as much fulfillment. Nothing in all the world. I am going to finish my seminary degree. I will continue to do whatever I need to job wise, but my goal is to one day return to full time ministry. I don't know how, when, or where. I just know that I can't do anything else.

All bitterness is gone. Every last person has been forgiven. I hold no more grudges. I just want to move forward, taking what I have learned and allowing God to use it for His purposes. I want to enjoy my family, friends, and work. I want to feel better and live better. I can't go back to what was, but I am stoked about what can and will be!

If you have read this far, thanks. Pray for me. I need it now more than ever.

Oh yeah, and I am going to finish the novel.