Sometimes it helps to peek at snapshots of the formative events which have occurred in a person’s life. It may help us to understand better why an individual makes a seemingly drastic decision later in life which appears to run contrary to common sense.
Confused yet? Let me invite you to glimpse at some snapshots of my life which give backstory as to why I became a children’s pastor years ago and then recently resigned. I won’t flesh out the details here; it would take too long.
When I was in grade school I was deeply impacted by the importance and meaning of the Statue of Liberty, particularly the poem which is engraved on its base. The seminal passage which forever impacted my thinking says
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
I remember feeling the impact of those words and believing them, as I do now.
In my late teens I began to grow closer to Christ. Many opportunities developed to share my faith. I remember weeping for the nations over a world globe, particularly those mired in poverty and who may never hear the gospel.
I went to Bible college and later to seminary with the goal of becoming a Bible scholar, but something happened on the way to success. I was introduced to the joys of children’s ministry and experienced simultaneous incredible fulfillment and potent frustration. It would seem that the rest is history, given my many years spent working in the church with young children and families. Good grief. I even earned an MDiv and DMin so I could learn to be a better children’s minister.
But something is happening in me. Something is afoot. And I do not completely understand it. It’s as if I am sailing with Truman (from the movie, “The Truman Show”) on that boat, only to discover that what I assumed to be the limit of my horizon is falsely set by my lack of understanding concerning God’s perspective.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not about being limited by children’s ministry or the local church. I love children’s ministry and the local church! It is about being limited by a worldview which fails to remember that God created us in his image, his likeness. We are created to obey and worship him, and to flow in the creativity which he has embedded in our DNA! Truman played his entire life by the script set for him by others. I don’t believe for a moment that I have done that. Such a claim would be far too melodramatic. However, I have sometimes (not always) responded to life with decisions which were expected of me by society. I refer here to decisions which had more than one valid option, more than one path that equally would have been an expression of obedience to Christ.
Bible college or university?
Bible scholar or children’s minister?
Full-time ministry or continued blue collar labor?
Continued ordination or setting aside credentials to better identify with the lost?
Volunteering within the four walls of a church building or focusing outside its walls on people who will likely never enter it?
I feel like I am marching that staircase now, unsure of what to expect, uncertain of what lies ahead. In some ways I am disillusioned. But mostly I am hopeful. And honestly, the path feels more like a muddy uphill, winding trail in Portland’s Forest Park!
I love Jesus Christ. I love his church in its many varied forms–attractional, missional, liturgical, casual, with a building or without–because it is about people. People following Jesus and encouraging other people to do the same. People worshipping God and helping each other throughout life’s turbulent seasons.
There are so many other snapshots I could have shared which likely would have more fully explained why I am on this peculiar journey. I dare not guess at what may lay beyond that obscured doorway. I hope for joy, but I know it will be accompanied by sorrow. I trust for clarity in God’s purposes, but I know that I will always have questions. Mostly, I want to make a difference in the margins of the culture in such a way that gives honor to God and brings others to faith in Christ while helping them the best I can along the way. I pray God will use me across generations with young and old. I may yet have some part to play in children’s ministry in the future. But then again, I may not. God will have to show me which way to go.
I suppose this is my counterintuitive way of saying that my part in this story is changing and possibly becoming even more obscure. That is for the best, I think. Notoriety is a terrible burden. I would rather take up the cross which Christ has reserved for me.