A Painful Truth in Pastoral Ministry
That I never saw it coming...
As I am in the process of working through the bitterness that I have in my heart I am reminded of a time years ago as a youth pastor. The pastor that I was serving with had his three sons in our youth group and all three were Godly young men. I really enjoyed having them in the youth group because they were a great help and influence on the other young men. I could count on them to always do the right thing. I developed a very close relationship with the oldest son and for two years him and I got close.
He met a very nice Godly young lady and as time went by they got engaged and then they were married. I was completely left out of the ceremony. I remember waiting to be asked to do the wedding ceremony, I was actually very excited and overjoyed for them and could not wait to be a part of their special day. That call never came. His father was asked to do the ceremony, which I knew was a possibility, and although a disappointment I completely understood. His father was a great guy and I enjoyed ministering with him. So I waited for the call to be a part of the ceremony in some other way. I could have prayed over them or read Scripture, or anything. That call never came. I was completely left out and I was crushed. I was angry. I did not go to their wedding. An awful truth dawned on me:
There will come a moment in your ministry when you realize that you’re not as important to someone as you thought you were. It’s a very humbling experience. A very sobering experience.
I ended up emailing him much much much later on in life. I dealt with it for a long time because it hurt me badly. I asked for his forgiveness and told him how hurt and angry that I was towards him, why I did not go to the wedding etc.. He forgave me, but our relationship would never be the same again and the truth quoted above still rings true.
I share this pain with you today as a warning to guard your heart - You are not as important as you think you are to some people. At the church I serve now I was told by a person years ago: “You’re my preacher not my pastor.”. Interesting way to put it right? I was never going to be anything more to this person because they did not want me to be. And that is the plain sobering truth, some people just will not accept you. Yes it does hurt and yes it painful but remember: they are the ones who have to explain their unloving attitude to The Lord, not you.
This experience for me helped to fuel my bitterness (which I was completely oblivious to) and with added hurts from others it would just keep growing and growing until everything came crashing down in March 2021 when my wife broke down and my family fell apart.
When you let anger and hurt go unchecked and bitterness takes root then beware because the explosion or implosion will happen, it’s just a matter of time.
That incident came completely out of nowhere for me and it totally blindsided me. It humbled me and it angered me at the same time. I also ignored dealing with it in a Godly way. Maybe if I had handled it differently him and I would still be talking today? I don’t know, I just know that my sin caused pain, because that is what sin does. It destroys.
So please guard your heart in ministry, please take care of yourself and your family. Please know that these things will happen to you as a pastor, well actually, they can happen to anyone. I’m thankful that The Lord has revealed these truths of bitterness to me over this past week and that I am doing the hard work of confronting it and uprooting it. It is painful but it must be done.
I’m sure those of you who are reading this have your own heartaches in ministry or simply just living life. These are the times when we are presented with a choice: stay here in this place of misery and brooding or forgive, love, and move on.
I pray that you can move on because life is too short to live daily in anger and bitterness.