Someone sent me a message looking for a particular blog post that I wrote 5 years ago, and that search reminded me of the importance of writing. There is some value in what I write that, I’ve heard, helps people, and I hope it helps you. There is value, too, in the untangling of my own mind and soul that writing provides, which helps me. The discipline of stringing letters into words and sentences forces order to my normally multi-track mind. In other words, this is important for my own spiritual formation. Knowing that you might read it adds vital accountability that, unfortunately, has been lacking. I regret that.
Of course, I didn’t know my regret it until I started reading and writing again. See? It works!
The pandemic has a refining effect. Priorities are re-prioritized. Some relationships are stronger, some weaker, and some are lost in the fog. One relationship has been legally severed. I’ve gained 30 pounds and lost 3 — another Jenny Craig success story! Traditional wisdom says that dudes over 40 have a far more difficult time keeping in good physical shape. I affirm the traditional wisdom. Thanks, lack of testosterone. And thanks, relentless Facebook advertising about middle age supplements that will bring back the fizz.
You’ve probably been through quite a bit in the last year, too. We are surrounded by tales of depression and excitement, severe loss and exciting opportunity. About a year ago, it was decided that we’d take a collective week or two off to try and straighten this virus thing out. The response to the pandemic has been like every storied home repair project. A two-week job has stretched to 52 weeks, and we’re still making regular trips to Home Depot. The cashiers know us by name.
The worst part of 2020 was having to file for divorce. I worked so hard to avoid it. I have written about the power of addiction in previous posts, so I won’t go into great detail here. I will say that I know she’s a good wife and mom at the core, and that our brains will lock us into an absolute living hell of reliance on a substance at all costs. All costs, including friendships, family, even your own health. I will say more, hopefully with measured care and a desire to maintain the dignity of everyone involved. This is the opening salvo: as of late November 2020, I am divorced.
“I am divorced” is a phrase I never imagined writing. I promised people I wouldn’t. I vowed that I wouldn’t. Every letter on the keyboard stings as I type that word. Divorce. God hates Divorce. I know that because well-meaning (I like to think) people told me so, in rejection to what had to be a public announcement. By the way, I hate divorce, too. In this situation, it was a terrible but not difficult choice, no matter what happened to the pastor. Speaking of which, the pastor (that’s me) has been investigated and officially cleared to continue in ministry, for which I am thankful. So yeah, I’m still at it, glory to God. I am grateful for a denomination — the Free Methodist Church — and for leaders, a process, and a reasonable conclusion. I am grateful for a supportive congregation. Most understand the situation enough to know that I avoided it at all cost.
It became truly unavoidable.
If you didn’t know that, you know now. I should tell you that I’m an open book, not afraid to have difficult conversations about my own situation and suffering. I may not be able to answer every question, but I have learned over the years that it’s much easier to just talk about stuff than it is to keep it hidden. Inauthenticity takes a lot of energy, and I have too much to focus on to worry about image management. I yam what I yam.
The best part of 2020 was the opportunity to get closer to Jesus. You know all that stuff about the shadow of death, coming to Him weary and burdened, etc.? It’s true. Romans 5:3-5 is where I’ve set up camp for the last year or so. It’s the next sentence, but don’t glance over it.
“… we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
This sums it up. Friends, if you don’t know Jesus, I highly recommend you search for Him, as I can guarantee that He loves you, is on your side, and is looking for you. The guarantee isn’t one of no suffering, but rather the presence of God during suffering. You’ll be ok.
The other best part of 2020 was all that time at home with my kids. My job is portable, in that I can do much of it from my house and/or at strange hours of the day and night. In fact, we had church from my basement for a few months before live-streaming from the church building. My kids were home from school at first, then slowly wiggled back, though I still see them much more than I did BC (Before Covid). That has been a gift that I would not trade for anything. Also, I appreciate teachers even more.
What about you? There’s nothing like taking inventory of what’s gone on in your life. Chances are that someone might resonate with your story and find some help. Perhaps they’ll realize God’s love in a new way (as I have). Might even find themselves drawn to him, to return to their maker. And there might perhaps be some authentic joy, even in the suffering. So it goes.
Thanks for reading and for being part of my life.
(PS: I’ll keep writing)