Friday, December 12, 2014

For You I Wait

Lead me in the truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.      -- Psalm 25: 5 

While I wait, I've thought about some things.

It's the Christian liturgical season of Advent.  Advent means 'coming.'  Many mainline churches and liturgically based denominations recognize the season of Advent to spend most of worship time in December preparing one's spirit and soul for the coming of Jesus as the triumphant King of kings and Lord of lords, as well as, the return of the infant to the manger.  It’s a rich tradition of anticipation and rejoicing in our God who is faithful to fulfill his promises.  While there is a coming of the Messiah, there is, also, a waiting on the part of the faithful.

We're to wait for what is to come and remain devoted and faithful to the King and his kingdom.

While I wait, I've thought about some things.  That's one of the things about waiting.  You're left to your own thoughts and reflections.

I can't sell much of anything.  Virtually all of the jobs I've been offered or worked on leave of absence several years ago or since I left the UMC are jobs of commerce or direct sales.  Except for a job in radio, I dealt with selling goods or services.  Retail or sales management saw my inquiries for work and assumed, based on my experience in ministry, I'd do well working with the public and could easily convince a customer to buy what I offered.

I've convinced myself of the same assumptions many times, but, the fact is, I can't sell much of anything.  Isn't the gospel a sales pitch?  Oh, my God!  It’s the good news of God's love for all.  You can't sell that.  That being true, in ministry, as well as in much of my life, I learned the hard way I was prone to be a 'people pleaser.'  This meant I didn't want anyone upset with me, so I'd seek to please to avoid disapproval from superiors.  That revelation is one of the stepping stones that's led me to be where I am - not making a career of pleasing people.

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.  -- Psalm 31: 24 

This is another of my thoughts as I wait for his coming.

I remember the pain of working at Books-A-Million.  I attributed the pain to being somewhere I wasn't suppose to be.  The demands of the job kept me engulfed in managing a business that was not fulfilling the calling on my life.  If you've never experienced this feeling of being somewhere and doing something that is not only foreign but incorrect for you, you'll find this to be a difficult concept.

The feelings of being at the wrong place for the wrong purposes, also, brought on depression and anger.  These feelings repeated themselves before Books-A-Million while I was serving as a pastor in Tuscaloosa.  I served there one year and, then, requested and was granted a leave of absence from ministry.  I knew pastoral ministry was no longer a passion for me, and I had to leave it for a period of reevaluation.  When I left, I felt like a coward.  April, however, told me it was God's will for me to rest. 

While on leave, I worked for a time in radio, which I loved, but it didn't pay sufficiently.  I was then offered a management job with Books-A-Million, and the pain I felt as a minister returned.  A couple months later I took a job at a local hotel working the front desk and washing dishes.  I worked there a year and a half without any of that inner pain of being in the wrong place.  While working there and attending the church April served, I began to hear the voice of God in ways I'd never experienced before (It was here I heard the Lord reveal to me Psalm 102: 18-22 in The Message).  Through such learning and experiencing, we're in a position that few have known because of the pain and passion involved.

Since April and I left the UMC to follow a calling separate from pastoral ministry, I've experienced this inner pain a couple times when offered and worked jobs in retail and direct sales.  I recognized the pain.  I could name it and was not willing to endure it again.  Unemployment isn't always the worst condition for a skilled and gifted human being in this society.

Recently, I felt this same pain again of being in the wrong place for wrong purposes.  I not only felt it as anger and depression, but it compelled me to desire willfully to leave where we are in pursuit of our destiny of providing an environment for the Presence of the Lord to bless, save and heal many on Sand Mountain (This is our calling).  With passion AND anger, I repeatedly said to myself, God and April, "It's time for us to leave!"

As April and I discussed this recently, it dawned on me that the pain I felt as a minister in Tuscaloosa and a bookstore manager drove me to act decisively to leave those positions. I left the ministry and the store to ultimately put me in a place to learn to hear the voice of God.  I had to learn to hear His voice and to know when its time to act for the purposes of God.

Its now time to leave and act for the purposes of God.  How all this is to occur is still a mystery, but experience and recent, subtle encounters with our God have spoken to me.

When we're in the season to wait upon the Lord, there's little else to do but to grow comfortable with the waiting.  When that season begins to shift into a time of action and, perhaps, labor as if there's to be a birth, anxiety rises.  The waiting is drawing to a close.  Labor will soon begin.

Advent is a sign post that something is truly coming.  Be assured, I'll tell you what comes.

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