Tuesday, June 5, 2007

this isn't where i live but it's where i am today

three years ago this week, i was fired. i had never been fired before. i am feeling a lot about it. i don't know what to do with it, so i'm not doing anything; i'm just feeling it. but it's not pleasant.
in the years that have followed, the most beautiful and amazing thing ever to occur in my 20+ years of work life, has happened. has grown. has emerged. has taken its place in the universe. i see that. i celebrate it every day. i am grateful beyond words simply to be part of it. i feel so much joy. deep assurance that the work i and others are doing is meaningful. i love waking up in the morning to do this, to be one of the pastors of journey imperfect faith community.
so, perhaps that's why my feelings these past few days have surprised me. i don't live in a place of resentment or anger about my being fired. i choose not to live there. it's not who i am; it's something that happened; it wasn't even about me; it was the business of the church i left.
but it affected me, and my wife, and my children, and a lot of other people who were hurt and had their hearts and hopes broken. and that sucks. i know that in my faith, the way i see the universe, my being fired and all the fallout and debris from that for hundreds of people is part of their lesson, their path, the gift that god has given them for their path here on earth. but it makes me angry when the bully picks on and harms the lesser one, the small one.
i was very often fearful as a child and young man. i lived in a constantly changing, scary, abusive world. but as i've grown older i have seen that i don't have anything to be afraid of; that whatever comes is alright, good, powerful; that i have what it takes simply to stand. i have so much compassion for people, mostly because i'm not afraid, that i can't help but see someone not as a bully, but as a broken person who is bullying someone else. i see that in the addict, the rageaholic, the workaholic, the unfaithful, the victim - it's what they're choosing, but it's not who they are. they're a child of god, and they're hurting.
but i don't like it when the actions, the manifestations of this brokenness hurt the broken person or the people around the broken person. and so i work for healing. that's my way of responding.
but this week, i'm just sad. i am remembering what happened to me when a broken person who wasn't in his right mind responded to his deep fear and insecurity, and i ended up in the line of fire, at ground zero, in the target zone.
it was time for the founding pastor of a large church to retire. i think he was just terrified. maybe he was worried about finding the end of himself. he was physically sick, and his wife had died, and i wonder if maybe he was just afraid that when he retired he wouldn't have an identity. i don't know.
i had come on staff in 2001 and felt weird about being at a big church; i think that constitutionally, a big church will have trouble following jesus. the larger the institution, the sicker it can become, encumbered with the things jesus warned about - dependence on money, attachment to possessions, self-identification through status or achievements. this church had all those things. it also some beautiful people, who had a dream about what that church could be. they asked me to help that happen. i did, for three years, and believed in my work.
and then many people picked me to be the next pastor. i never sought that job. i didn't want it. and god didn't say to me and leslie, "do the job"; god said, specifically, "if they offer it to you, say yes." that's all; just say yes. the church council asked me to be the next pastor. i said yes, with fear and trembling, but i believed that god was at work and that god had change and newness in mind for this church.
and a few months later, the founding pastor fired me. the reasons he came up with were flimsy and silly; they were about him. it was ugly. lots of people were hurt. my family got hurt. i got hurt. i'm not even interested in the story anymore; how the pastor chose to handle it, what he chose to talk about and not to talk about, what he chose to be honest about and dishonest about ... none of those things are the point. he found a reason, and then he found a way to hurt me so that i wouldn't be a threat to him.
the afternoon leslie and i met with the church council, it rained and rained and rained. hard. thunder and lightning. darkness. we laughed later about god responding to what was happening. there was nothing in how the pastor and his hand-picked council handled it that was healthy; it was about a wounded person needing to hurt someone in order to feel safe, and an unhealthy system supporting him in that.
so, journey was born. a bunch of people who experienced this together, chose to form a new faith community. and my ministry was resurrected by god and the love and hope of a group of people. it is amazing. honestly. i am amazed. such beauty and hope and new life have grown out of that pain and death. and it's not even about "building a great church" - i don't believe in that. it's just about the healing and hope that are happening today in this faith community. that's all. that's all there is. and that's everything. it's here.

i don't live in a place of victimhood or resentment. a lot of people told us to sue the church, sue the pastor, speak to the members, write letters. we didn't want to do any of those things. we chose to move forward. so, this isn't a place i live - which is why it surprised me yesterday when it showed up.
i have acted out of my woundedness and have hurt people - been angry, refused to cooperate, didn't see what they needed, hid, indulged myself, avoided dealing with things. we all hurt other people and ourselves. i see that. and i see, too, that god works in that and through it, and that healing and possibility are always at work.
i'm just sad this week, that's all. i'm grieving, because it was a painful thing for me and for a lot of people. and it's good to be sad, and to be grateful, all at the same time.


Susan said...

You've said it all and I have nothing to add except thank God for Journey and everyone who makes it Journey.

ephill said...

I would never wish your pain on anyone. Ever. But what's developed afterwards is beautiful. I'd been looking for Journey for 20 years.

ephill said...

I would never wish your pain on anyone. Ever. But what's developed afterwards is beautiful. I'd been looking for Journey for 20 years.

Steve said...

And all of Journey said...Amen

Anonymous said...

"There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness."
- Josh Billings


revrin rick said...

right on. and the cool thing is, if it's truly forgiveness, then it wasn't about revenge anyway, the good has already come, and the good is spread all around - what a great way to flip that awareness that we all feel at some level that things should be somehow "right," hence our desire for revenge.
forgiveness changes all that. not the forgiveness that we're working on awarding to the other person or thing either outside us or within us ... but the forgiveness that we're no longer working on at all. it is the by-product of having done our heart's work and then letting go.
that's what i think anyway.