Greetings from Gardenside,
I had someone ask me the other day what’s the most painful thing you’ve experienced in ministry? And I thought…”Man! That’s not an easy question to answer.” I’ve buried best friends, experienced A teenage daughter’s pregnancy, tried to help another son survive a divorce emotionally and spiritually, I watched as a student minister the Senior Minister and a church leader have a shoving match over a microphone during a congregational meeting, I’ve preached my Dad’s funeral, I’m currently trying to care for my Mother as she transitions from full clarity to forgotten memories, events, and people with some early dementia. (I’ve got an amazing brother and sister who help carry the load). I’ve dealt with mean people, selfish people, hateful people and greedy people. But if you asked me the most painful experience I’ve ever had in ministry it involved my second son Tyler…
Tyler volunteered for the Army shortly after 9/11 and after the death of his Grandfather, who was awarded the purple heart during WWII. In the Battle of the Bulge he stepped on a landmine and lost his left leg (He firmly stated his whole life…he gave it). Tyler was a Calvary Scout, The Gunner in a fighting vehicle (The one that’s constantly exposed). Tyler spent 18 months in Iraq and did just shy of 4000 missions. He had his vehicle blown out from under him. Kari and I genuinely felt there was a very good chance he might not come back home to us alive. We had a daughter who was a Senior in HS during his deployment and we would get calls from The US Government Service Dept. trying to recruit her…but each time that identification came up on our caller ID it felt like we’d hear from the War Dept….news we dreaded…but let me get to the point. Tyler did come home, suffering with some TBI and PTSD. And one evening our Student Minister at church asked him if he would share his story with the youth group. He did…I was so proud of his courage and transparency…but I got a call from my church leaders that next week and they wanted to talk with me about my son Tyler. One of them had seen a picture or two with him holding a beer with his buddies on MySpace (Tyler was 23 and a War Veteran by the way)…and they wanted me to discipline my Son for his Social Media indiscretion…there was One particular leader who seemed very fervent about this issue. The same leader who treated people who had money differently than he treated others, the same leader who had never spoken to Tyler face to face in his life. A modern Day Pharisee to be sure. I asked this Leadership if they really were handling things in a scriptural manner, or in a manner that showed love and grace to a wounded soldier and family. Tyler and I talked about this issue and I’ll never forget what he said, “Dad, I don’t need them to say thank you to me for serving them and protecting them, but I sure don’t need them to come after me.”
Until my dying day this will be one of the hardest hurts I will ever work my way through…Brian Jones has an amazing book on forgiveness called “Getting Rid Of The Gorilla: Confessions of the struggle to forgive.” and it helped me deal with this Gorilla. Maybe it will help you get rid of your Gorilla. I recommend it highly. I would never again trust this Modern Day Pharisee, but I would get to the place where I stopped drinking the poison of unforgiveness hoping it would effect him. That’s what unforgiveness is….”Drinking Draino in hopes that it will poison your enemy.
Jesus tells a parable in Matthew chapter 13 called “The Weeds and Wheat.” In this “earthly story with a heavenly meaning” Jesus says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who sowed good seed, but while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away…” Because they existed together you could not separate them until harvest time. Jesus explains this story to his followers: “The One who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age.”
Kari and I have ministered in many different places…big churches, small churches and some in-between. Every one of them filled with weeds and wheat. There are no perfect churches, because they are filled with imperfect people. People at different levels of maturity…different agendas and personalities…some who even masquerade as believers for evil or monetary reasons. But my experience has been, the grace and love that flows from the wheat…far outweighs the evil leaven of the Modern Day Pharisee.
I’ll never forget…nor will Kari the loving couple who showed up at our house with the entire youth group to wrap their arms around us and our daughter. I’ll never forget the Saint that allowed Tyler and I to go hunting with them so we could heal and recover. I’ll never forget those who were running into our pain and struggle, even while others threw rocks from outside the gates. Yes the church has it’s issues, it’s Modern Day Pharisees, but it also has Jesus filled and guided family who will never let you go…I’m good with that until harvest time.
All my love,