It has been a year and a couple of months since I left the ministry. I left partly because I was graduating then and I was working on my thesis. While it is true that working on one’s thesis is probably one of the most tiring and stressful part of undergrad, I believe I could still have made time for it despite the heavy workload I had that semester. The major reason why I left the ministry was because I was overwhelmed by the commotion I came home to after being away for a month to conduct sampling for my thesis and the repercussions that came along with it.
I admit, it was a terrible time for everybody. I had my fair share of troubles while I was away. Simultaneously, my local church faced a difficult situation. I guess I could say I am glad I was not there at that time because it would have hit me harder had I seen the events unfold with my own eyes. Nonetheless, I was hit. A lot of people were hit. I think we all were hit in some way or another- consciously and unconsciously. And although the issue may have seemed to have resolved a few weeks (or months) thereafter, I saw its effects on the people directly involved. I saw them stagger around broken walls attempting to rebuild shattered monuments. I saw them carry out the usual routines – functional but not quite healed. And then I saw them get into arguments with one another in loud voices and in hushed tones- both parties insisting on being right and the other wrong.
It was heartbreaking. I heard differing opinions and I was confused. I did not know who to believe in. And eventually the sheer immensity of it all became too much for me so I did what I thought best and took a step back. Slowly. Away from the conflict. The chaos. The confusion. Until I found myself far away from the church I once loved and into my own misadventures. Things were never quite the same since then; even when the erring party(ies) had left. Until now, I still see the repercussions: people leaving, relationships broken, tired hearts and weakened knees, a scattering and hungry flock- a struggling church.
I did not leave the church. I was simply on the sidelines. Silent. Invisible. Observing. Hurting. Nursing and licking my wounds. Strayed. Help came in the form of people who reached out to me and pointed out my mistakes, in sermons I have heard from a church I frequented to during that time, and in experiences that have left me with no choice but to seek God’s help. Do I miss being in the ministry? I do, but what I miss more was the relationship I had with the Lord before all the troubles began (before I left for sampling).
If there was one thing I learned from serving in the ministry is the reality that everyone- pastor, elders, deacons, and leaders- is nevertheless human. They struggle. They doubt. They sin just like everyone else. Being on a high post does not make them immune to sin, rather they become more prone to attacks of the enemy by being on the front line. That is because when the leaders fall, those under them fall as well. Which is why praying for our church leaders is never overemphasized.
Being in the ministry also entails being privy to issues and conflicts and struggles (people in) the church carry. Sometimes, it involves people you serve in the ministry with. Sometimes, it involves the family sitting on the front row of the pew every Sunday. I have lost count of how many times I have heard about people saying don’t do this or don’t do that and yet did the exact same thing in the dark that in a way, I have learned to become less affected when I hear about them. But that does not mean I do not get sad anymore about them either. It is heartbreaking and at times anger-provoking. In retrospect, it’s becoming clearer to me why until now I refuse to come back: I find it difficult to shake off the hurt and the mistrust I have developed over time. I could not forgive them for falling. I could not forgive then for being human. Weak, fragile humans in need of God’s saving grace. Just like me.
And that was my mistake. I was wounded, no doubt, but I scratched and made it worse.
Right now, I can say that I am doing better than I did a couple of months before. Like what I wrote previously on a post, those were the darkest times of my life and it is only by God’s grace that I have not left the faith. That I have taken a 360-degree turn back to where I came from, albeit slowly and sometimes still stumbling along the way. One step at a time, I tell myself. One sure step at a time. The church is also recovering and mending broken structures and relationships. God is good. He is a God of restoration.
Despite the failure and hurts, one good thing I have gained – if not the best -from being in the ministry was being able to see people in a closer, clearer lens. And it is in those interactions that I saw genuine passion for God and in giving Him glory no matter the cost. In my original draft, I wrote this with regards to being in the ministry:
I am inspired me to live the same way, to run the same race with as much dedication and faithfulness.
In the end, I am reminded that we are all people in need of grace. Both leaders and the members alike. It is only by His help that we do not fall prey to the attacks of the enemy whose main purpose is to destroy the church and scatter God’s flock. It is only by His grace that we remain in Him. That we become healed despite our injuries. That we learn to stand again despite a great fall.
It is only by God’s grace that we gain the courage to try again. This time better. Not being confident in our own strength and abilities but in the One who gave these things to us.
But most importantly, it is only by God’s sovereign grace that we are able to accomplish anything at all.
To God be the glory.