Who Am I?  Part 13

Undoubtedly, 1989 was a year that held great blessings as well as times of great difficulties.  You can see this even by just reading the titles of the last two articles in this seriesWho Am I?.  I reflected on the idea of me being like a prodigal son, (one who tries to walk independently from his Father with disastrous results), and then shared the joy I had of being a new father.

It is certainly by God’s grace that I was able to be there at Eric’s birth, considering that I had been so ill that I was mostly on bed rest for the three months before my son’s birth.  And wouldn’t you know it, I got a job shortly after his birth and within three weeks I put my back out and was on bed rest for another three months.

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Now when I say I hurt my back, that is an understatement.  I’m pretty sure now that the three-month illness must have weakened many of my muscles.  Then, the job I got was to work alongside young offenders and juveniles in trouble to show them how to get work and integrate well into the regular world.  So one day we were to sweep gravel off a pavement and that required us to stoop low and get our brooms under a bunch of parked cars.

The work that day was definitely a “back-breaking” job.  That evening I was extremely stiff and sore.  I went to bed early, but woke up as I tried to turn over.  To this day, I can still “feel” the muscles in my lower left back tear apart and immobilize me in pain.  To be honest, I don’t know how Jill got me out of bed and helped me get to a doctor.  Immediately I was referred to a special physiotherapist clinic which worked with me as an outpatient for three months until I could fully walk and move again without further damaging my back muscles.

As you can possibly imagine, I was on the edge of real serious depression, seeing as half of 1989 I spent on my back in bed.  But I must say that God was gracious to allow me to be well on the day that Eric was born, and having a little baby boy in my life was the ray of sunshine and joy that pulled me through the first half of that year.

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During the summer and early fall, I found that landing a job was quite difficult and believe it or not, I tried to earn a salary going around and selling dictionaries.  It was a good thing that my physiotherapist was able to fix me pretty well, because walking around from store to store and house to house with a 20 pound dictionary all day is no easy task.  (Okay, maybe it was only 15 pounds.)

What I really wanted to do was to be involved in Christian ministry again.  Somehow I had lost my focus on my lifelong dream to be a missionary.  Part of that I think is that I felt I needed to find a job at home to help take care of my family of three now.  And we wanted Jill to be able to stay at home with Eric as long as possible.

After sending out many copies of my resume, a day came when we were invited to a church in western Canada to interview with the elders for a Youth & Associate Pastor position.  The interview went well and we were invited to serve in that church.  I was excited that once again I would be able to engage in full-time Christian work.  Little did I know that just one year later, I would be asked to leave and that I would experience a deep wounding of my soul that would last for years.

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When I started working at the church, I threw myself into the work: leading the Youth Group, training teachers and leaders, doing home visitation and small group ministries, and starting a Children’s Church program.  I felt like this was what I had trained for, and I worked hard.  And yet at the same time, I also worked at being home for Jill and our newborn son as much as I could.

So it came as quite a shock when I was called into a special elders meeting and asked to resign from the church.  Quite literally, they pulled out their black notebook and recited back to me all the things that I had done wrong in the year I had been with them.  Ouch!!  They actually kept a record of my “wrongs”?  (That doesn’t sound like 1 Corinthians 13 does it?)

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Now, without going into the details, I’ve thought a lot over the years about the things I was told that night.  Was there some truth in what they accused me of?  Yes, there probably were times that I came across as arrogant.  And I’m sure there were some people who I had offended for some reason.  And there were other points on their list that had a kernel of truth in them.  But could the elders have handled this better?  Most assuredly.

But the damage was done.  And so we moved away from there.  It hurt terribly for a long time, but even this wounding was used by God I believe to make me more into the person that God wanted me to be.  Whether it was this experience, or maybe it is just because I’m older now, but I believe I try harder in my ministry work to be more sensitive to and to listen better to those whom God has called me to serve.

It’s not easy to be humbled or hurt.  Whether we feel we deserve it or not, there is always some lesson or truth that God is trying to teach us out of every situation.  It’s been over 20 years since that incident, and I have forgiven those whom I believe had not treated me fairly.  But then the Bible tells us that we are to forgive and let God handle justice if need be in His own way and in His own time.  I pray that I will never forget that lesson.

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