Tomorrow will mark our three-year anniversary in the Austin area. Three years ago, I was probably on the phone with the U-Haul place, booking our truck. I was surrounded by towers of brown boxes. All of our life had been packed into those tiny cardboard transports.
There was excitement and anticipation. A new city. A new house. A new church. A new everything. Just like the beginnings of any new adventure, possibility is the fuel behind it all. There is always some doubt, but challenges are there to be overcome.
And now, three years later, I sit in the house and the city. If I had to describe the last three years in one word, I would describe it as a beating. Physically, financially, spiritually, emotionally, we’ve taken a beating. We’ve had our victories, but they seem small and pale in comparison to the darkness of the defeats. I thought last year was the culmination of the rough ride. I thought the entire year was as bad as it could get. This year seemed much better, until August rolled around and we endured 60 days that were like no other. It’s hard to describe all the things that happened. All the heartache and despair. But, it’s also hard to describe the way God moved in those times. The way he pulled us closer to him despite the storms raging all around us was beautiful.
I’ll be the first to tell you we didn’t enjoy the events of the last two months. I’ll also be the first to tell you that God orchestrated every second of every one of those events. He did it to bring the end of me. He did it to show that I cannot operate under my own power and make it. I don’t believe that just because God tells us to go somewhere it’s to bring us success. He’s not all about wealth and health. He’s about cutting to the center of our hearts, so that we would be dependent on him and he would be glorified through it. Sometimes that means taking us into the desert and pushing us beyond ourselves. He brings about events that we can’t face on our own.
I have no doubt he wanted us right here in Austin, right here in the church and right here in our lives. In his mercy, he strips away what we don’t need to give us what we do. What I’ve needed is him and a dependence on him. What I don’t need is pride, arrogance, ego and confidence that I can make it on my own. He has brought the end of me, and I pray from here on out, I operate under his power.
This Sunday, Tony had the staff of Legacy Fellowship stand in front of the church as he thanked us for our hard work. Standing there with that amazing group of people, the spotlights warmed my face, but inside I was fighting back tears. He was thanking us for all the hard work we’d done in the past year, but I knew the truth. I had resigned as a staff member this last week. I was abandoning the people I thought I never would.
When we were considering a move to Austin, we had a choice in front of us. We could either move to the DFW area and attend the Village Church or move to Austin for Legacy. The Village represented a place to heal and rest after a very long and hard few years of ministry. Legacy represented a church where I felt we were needed. We could help out and work toward growing the church. Honestly, it felt good to be wanted after such a tough few years of feeling like we weren’t. We instantly connected with the staff and loved it there. To this day, it remains the friendliest church I’ve ever encountered. The strength is the people and their amazing connections. We made our decision to put off the rest we probably needed and dove back into service for a few more years.
Church for me has always been about service. Since I was 18, I’ve been working in a church in some form or another. This service has represented so much of my faith. At times, I’ve let it replace a true connection with our great King. In those times, he pulls me back and shows me what I’ve been doing.
I feel like God has something huge out there for us in the future. I really don’t know what it is, but I know if it came along today I would not be in a healthy enough place to take it on. Starting at the beginning of the summer, I began to feel like God was calling us to step way from working at Legacy to focus on us. Our crazy travel and work schedule this summer just made that feeling stronger. I was worn out by August. Then it hit, and I reached the end of what I could do.
I don’t know how long God is putting me on the sidelines. I know it’s for my good, the health of my family and the good of Legacy. Resisting the call to ministry is like resisting gravity for me, but I’m fighting the fight for now. It seems so odd to me, because I’m always the one preaching that you have to get out there and serve. I still believe that. But, you have to serve out of strength God provides, not your own. I need to recover my strength. I’m on a quest to really explore my relationship with God. My first inclination is to already start looking to the future and trying to discover what the light at the end of the tunnel is. I have to stop that, though, and just focus on God and his voice. That will be a difficult change for me, but it is needed.
Practically, what does this look like? Well, of course, I’m no longer a pastor on staff at Legacy. We have a lot of traveling to do in the next few months which means we wouldn’t be here too much anyway. In that time I plan to explore other churches and just seek God wherever I can find him. I love the people of Legacy desperately, but I also have problems worshipping and resting in a church where there are so many things that have to be done. So we’ll see what that looks like. I honestly don’t know.
When I think of this in terms of my own ego and self worth, it feels like failure. But when I think of it in terms of God’s calling, it feels like victory. God has been gracious to us in the last three years. Even with the challenges, he has surrounded us with people that have become great friends and supporters. Tony and Kandy especially deserve credit. God has used them as an example to me that I’m thankful for. There is nothing they wouldn’t do for us and that part of this breaks my heart.
Through it all, God has been there as our comforter and I’m really excited, for the first time in over a decade, to just rest in him. All it took was finally reaching the end of me.