This year marks 30 years of ministry for me. It has not been an easy 3 decades. I’ve had some incredible highs and some equally incredible lows. For years I’ve worked in poor ministries or poor communities that has produced great financial strain, but has also cultivated in my wife and me a great faith in the Lord’s provision. It is a faith that must extend to the future as retirement benefits have only recently been a part of the compensation packages.
I’ve met some incredible people and have built some lasting, life-changing relationships. I’ve also been involved in relationships that produced pain deep enough to plunge me into depression and the contemplation of leaving ministry entirely.
I’ve experienced the soaring highs of having books published, being asked to speak around the world and building, planting and pastoring churches. I’ve also experienced the searing lows of crushing self-doubt, rejection, marital and familial conflict and strain. In the past 3 years I’ve…
… Relocated my family across the country to help care for my Alzheimer-afflicted mother.
… Experienced her death.
… Revealed the identity of my father that I’d kept secret for 34 years.
… Left one ministry and started another.
… Entered into the trying world of parenting 2 teenagers.
I’ve hit a wall.
I find myself in a place of deep emotional, spiritual and relational dryness and fatigue. I have not stopped fulfilling my responsibilities of teaching, preaching, leading, writing, parenting, etc., but it feels as though I’m running through sand in combat boots – it’s a tiring struggle. The question is, “How will I respond to it?”
What about you? Have you been here? How did you deal with it? How did you come out of it? Did you come out of it? What did you learn?
I have always been fascinated with the Biblical account of Moses at Kadesh that chronicles what may have been the greatest failure of his leadership career when his decision to strike the rock resulted in God not allowing him to lead Israel into the Promised Land (Numbers 20:1-13). Quite frankly, this passage both fascinates and scares the daylights out of me for a couple of reasons! First, it has always seemed like a harsh response (dare I say over reaction) by God considering Moses’ stellar track record. Second, I’ve wondered what striking the rock looks like today. More specifically, I’ve wondered what it would look like in my life and ministry.
The Lord has led me to explore this passage with a goal of ruthless self-examination:
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires (Hebrews 4:12).
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life (Psalm 139:23-24).
I’m fairly confident that I am not the only pastoral type who has “hit the wall.” Whether you are where I am, have already passed this exit or are approaching it, I’d like to invite you on this journey with me to look deep into your heart and mind for some self-discovery. Our minds, ministries and marriages may hinge on what we find and what we do about it.