Milestones: #7 Dealing with Loss & Pain (as a Pastor)

This is the wrap up of a series of 7 blog posts on specific milestones in my ministry/life.  I've done this in order to "build an altar of remembrance and gratitude" to God, and to share a few things I've discovered and learned along the way.  Milestone #7 is a loss/disappointment or tragedy which God brought forth great purpose and good.

Honestly, I haven't experienced a lot of what I would call "tragedy" in my life.  Yes, I have lost loved ones to death, lost good friends to misunderstandings, lost respect because of my own stupidity, and lost my way on just about every road trip I've ever taken.  I am certainly well acquainted with loss and the pain that comes with it.

One of the most difficult things about being in the vocation of a church Pastor is losing friends.  Years ago, in my "college years," I was counseled to not make close friendships in the churches that I would serve.  Well, I'm a people person, and as Jesus works through me to awaken passions within others, I get invested personally and deeply.  Many Pastors are wired this way.

One of the main reasons I was counseled to not have close friends within the churches that I served, is the unwarranted jealousy that happens. But that is a whole other blog post.  I'll just say that its a fact of life that Pastors (who are people too, by the way) "hit it off" with some people more so than others.  Doesn't everyone?

But I digress...

The other reason I was counseled to not have close friends in the churches I serve is the one I want to bring to this post: eventually, you will lose them.  OK, so this isn't always the case, but I've experienced it.  It does happen.  Too often.  And it does hurt.  Every time.

In one particular church I was serving in, there came a very difficult season. A simple misunderstanding combined with several straight-up lies, caused several people to leave the church fellowship.  Honestly, it's difficult for the Pastor when anyone leaves the church, but it's very painful when relationships run deep, and the circumstances are so un-Jesus-like.  When some very close friends left the church, it hurt... emotionally, relationally, and even physically.  It is extremely difficult (but not impossible) to go from being a Pastor and friend to someone to being simply a friend who is a Pastor.

During this season, as I wrestled with all of the emotions connected with loss (and the entire situation), I still had vision to cast, leaders to develop, sermons to prepare & preach, hospital visits to make, and everything else that is a part of the vocation.  As I was preparing a lesson on Abraham, I read how God spoke to him inside his tent and called him outside to talk and do a bit of stargazing.  I couldn't shake the feeling that God was calling me outside as well.  Literally.

I walked outside and stood a while under a huge oak tree.  In that moment the Spirit began to minister and speak to my heart.  God was saying to me that I am not the tree; HE is the tree, and I am a branch connected to Him.  On the branches were leaves and acorns.  And the Creator of all showed me that my job is to be a branch, connected to the tree... and if I did that, there would be leaves and acorns - people, friends, who would be connected to me.  But it's not my job to force nor keep those connections; my sole job is to stay connected to the Tree as a branch.  Some leaves will remain vibrant and green... others will wither and fall away.  Some acorns will stay, but many will be sent away to be planted elsewhere.  And if I simply make my focus staying connected to Jesus, the Tree, then I will be OK.

Does it still hurt when someone walks away?

Every time.

But if they can just walk away from you, from the Vision and Mission that you share, let them.  It will hurt, but let them go.  Keep sight of who you are - a branch.  And trust the Tree.

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