There I was, driving eastbound, headed out of town. Aiming to drive and drive and drive. Never to return. Hating what I had experienced. Hating what I was doing.
Aggravated and irritated by the things I witnessed. I walked out the side door of the auditorium. Walked to my vehicle. Got in and drove.
No wife. No kids. Just me. I drove. I left town. My irritation subsided. Rationale returned.
I had just preached, for the umpteenth time. Poured my heart, my spirit, and my soul into another lesson. Wanting to serve God and his people.
Another week. Another lesson. The same thing. I walked out pissed as hell. I was ready to leave. So ready, I left. Literally.
If memory serves, I was in tears. I had come to see that the ministry was going nowhere. Different people. The same stupid crap. As it is said, “Ministers come and go. Congregations stay.”
When that reality sets in, I mean really sets in, it tastes and feels like despair. Because what that phrase is saying is that nothing changes. That is exactly what I learned.
So I drove eastbound. Leaving town. In tears. Never wanting to see the faces of the congregation ever again.
But as I drove, the story of Jonah rolled around in my head. His running. The storm. Jonah in the water. Jonah in the big fish. His preaching. His reaction to their repentance.
I figured I was in the running stage. So, instead of having to suffer from personal mismanagement, I turned around and headed back to town.
I don’t remember the date of that event, but I want to say somewhere in late 2008 or early 2009. It was around that time that I knew, I knew, within my bones that things were not going well. But I trudged on, serving to the best of my ability.
Two older colleagues, men of patience, were willing to listen to me and help me as best they knew how. Their strongest help being: acceptance, friendship, love, belief in me, and belief in that which was being taught, even though they thoroughly scrutinized my ministry.
One of them asked me for a two-year commitment. I gave him my word. I kept it.
The other helped me through some of my darkest moments in pulpit ministry.
For both of those men, I give God my thanks. Without them, I am not completely sure what would have happened to me.
But I kept moving forward in the ministry. There was work to be done. Work must be done. Teaching. Preaching. Ministering.
In the face of increasing opposition, I did become angry. It probably showed. Do I regret being angry? No. But later, when I returned to Texas that anger burst forth like the water held behind the Hoover Dam.
My Biblical studies and spiritual pursuits took me places the congregations of the denomination I was affiliated with did not like, did not want, and would not endure.
I have come to accept that they, like me, have a God-given choice. They chose. I chose. But the two paths are not the same. And cannot be walked together.
During those days of heavy turmoil, my days were dark, my nights long. I came to question my role in the church. I came to question my work as a pulpit minister. I came to question the very purpose of serving the church.
I loved and still love to study the Bible. I loved and still love to present what God helps me understand. But I came to dread the presentations and the constant apathy that I was seeing amongst so many.
I prayed. I prayed with everything I had. I prayed for sermons. I prayed that God would help me. I prayed asking for guidance for what the congregation needed to hear.
I did my best to follow where I believed God was leading. But with every passing week, it grew more and more difficult to have patience with the people that I thought I was “called” to serve.
Then one day, somewhere in late 2009 or early 2010, I prayed. I remember the point of that prayer to this day. “God, you ask me to lay down my life for you. I don’t mind doing it. But this preaching gig ain’t cutting it. You want me to lay down my life for you, give me something worth dying for.”
Less than a year later, I was out of the pulpit. Between the congregation and me, the desire was a mutual. Terrible event that had to take place, leaving many disappointed and several caught unawares.
You see, in the churches, there is the formal church organization and presentation, and then there is the informal yet crystallized political church machine. Those in-the-know, know which is which. The others are caught unawares.
Yet even in all that, there were those who cared and still care about me and my family. Good people. Caring hearts. Saddened by the turn of events. I will always be grateful for them, because they, like the other two men, helped me during a time of low ebb.
I knew what was going on and what the end result would be, yet the work of the kingdom must continue. During that time, I rarely spoke of my inner turmoil regarding the developments in ministry or the manner in which the ministry was tearing apart my soul. The minister ministers, but rarely is the minister ministered unto.
During my exit, I remained silent. Stayed silent about the events for two entire years. Why fight against a machine designed not to investigate, interprets as hostile anything it doesn’t understand, and is willing to overthrow anyone who is different? I left, and later in various places I have written about my spiritual journey involving theology and my move away from my religious training.
But, it was during those dark days and long nights of 2009-2010 that I was seeking God’s leading in ways I had never considered. Those events, many of which I am just now beginning to see how they impacted the direction of my life, are what I write about.
And it is only now that I begin sharing some of the events that shaped my understanding of the Bible’s teachings about polygamy and how I have come to accept that I myself am going to live the freedom that God permits.
Blessings and Shalom