Closing thoughts of an almost-no-longer-single pastor

C&J

4 days.

Four more days of singleness.

It’s a strange thing to consider — almost 32 years behind me as a single guy, with musings about relationships and romantic interests and sermons on singleness; a lifetime ahead of me as a married man, with a whole host of new joys and challenges.

My counselor told me once:

Change = Loss = Grief

In other words, any change involves a loss of some kind — whether of good things or bad things — and there is a grief that accompanies that. Even if the change is a positive one, a step in the right direction, things are lost that may never be regained.

In the quiet moments with God that I’ve been able to snatch amidst the busyness of wedding preparations, I’ve been excited for what’s to come — getting to spend the rest of my life and the adventure that’ll continue unfolding with Carolyn; I’ve been grateful for the faithfulness of God throughout this chapter — during the times when I was striving and impatient and frustrated as much as the times when I was content and at peace (the latter were far less frequent!); but I’ve also had time to grieve the end of this part of my life.

I like to say — and only part-jokingly — that it took me 29 years to fully comprehend the gift that singleness is. And then I met Carolyn.

But seriously … there are things that I learned to appreciate as a single person, ways in which God grew me, for which I’ll forever be grateful:

  • being present and available and stable for friends as they went through some difficult times;
  • having the time and freedom to see and hang out with as many people as my schedule and boundaries allowed;
  • getting to experience singleness for most of my twenties and into my thirties, and thus being able to empathize with and minister to those who have been — and some who remain — single for longer than they’d like;
  • discovering and pursuing God’s call to holiness and God’s design for us to be in relationship (whether in a romantic relationship or in relationships of family and community) and God’s value of us far beyond our relationship status.

From Friday, I’ll no longer be “the single pastor.” It’s strange to think that that’s been part of my identity, part of the way I’ve labeled myself, but that’s the way it’s been for the last four years — and in a church that’s almost three-quarters single, that’s been a unique point of connection. I don’t know how things will change when I’m married, how relationships will change, how ways of relating will change.

And so in this, just as with any step into the unknown, looking back with gratitude and grief, and looking forward with hope and excitement and eager anticipation, I place my life into the hands of a great, big, loving God, and see what happens. I know that some things will be different and some things will remain the same — I’m not sure exactly what just yet nor all of the details, but I’m stoked that I get to figure it out with two of my favorite people.

Here we go … see you on the other side.

For old times’ sake, here’s the blog series taken from last summer’s “Being Single” sermon:

  1. An Apology
  2. Not a Waiting Room
  3. Not a Terminal Disease
  4. Sex
  5. A Gift

Slow down

Lake

Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

- Dallas Willard

In the spiritual life God chooses to try our patience first of all by His slowness. He is slow: we are swift and precipitate. It is because we are but for a time, and He has been for eternity. …

There is something greatly overawing in the extreme slowness of God. Let it overshadow our souls, but let it not disquiet them. We must wait for God, long, meekly, in the wind and wet, in the thunder and the lightning, in the cold and the dark.

Wait, and He will come. He never comes to those who do not wait. He does not go their road.

When He comes, go with Him, but go slowly, fall a little behind; when He quickens His pace, be sure of it, before you quicken yours. But when He slackens, slacken at once: and do not be slow only, but silent, very silent, for He is God.

- Frederick Faber

Going slow is difficult for me. Especially since I’ve learned what it means to put my faith into action, and I just want to do it. Especially in a church that’s committed to the work of justice and the renewal of our city, and there’s so much to do. Especially in a city where your value is often based on your activity.

But in these contexts, going slow, even stopping, and learning to listen are particularly important. Because it’d be real easy to think when you’re busy and active that it’s what you do  that matters, rather than who you are and who you are becoming.

Who you are and who you are becoming are far more important than what you do.

So …

  • Remember to sabbath.
  • Build your life on a foundation of love and devotion for God.
  • Spend time tending to your soul by spending time with God — quality time.
  • Make time for things that give you life — whether that’s with friends or on your own (or both).
  • Build in habits of rest and silence and solitude and prayer.

William Wilberforce, the great anti-slavery activist and parliamentarian — I’m guessing he was probably fairly busy — said,

Of all things, guard against neglecting God in the secret place of prayer.

Doing good is good. Doing good is important. But doing good won’t last long if we’re disconnected from God because we’ll constantly feel stretched thin, worn out, and burned out. We weren’t made just to do good. We were made to live with Godto do life with God (and part of that involves doing good).

And doing life with God means we have to move at God’s pace — James Houston wrote, “The speed of godliness is slow.” So slow down a little; don’t miss what God’s doing.

[Both quotes taken from John Ortberg's Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You.]

The truth about dishonesty

A fun animation to go along with Duke psychology and behavioral economics professor Dan Ariely’s talk, based on his book The Honest Truth about Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone–Especially Ourselves. Includes some fascinating insights into confession, forgiveness, and sin, as well as the financial crisis.

Baptisms and birthdays

This past weekend, we celebrated:
EAST SIDE’S FIRST BIRTHDAY (yeah, it’s already been a year!). Thank you for your prayer and your support as the first District Church plant has reached this milestone — and we’re still here! It’s a tremendous testament to the grace of God at work, cultivating relationships, and we celebrated with a cookout in a couple East Siders’ back yard!
BAPTISMS. Five people got baptized on Sunday, including A., a teenager who’d walked into one of our first East Side services and stayed, helping out where she could and joining us for post-service dinners. Two weeks ago, I was able to pray with her to accept Jesus as her Savior, and on Sunday I was able to baptize her. It was an amazing experience and I may (or may not) have gotten a little choked up. Again, so grateful for the grace of God powerfully and evidently at work.
Please be praying for all of those who were baptized and for all of us here at The District Church, that we would continue to seek after God with everything we’ve got and to love our neighbors.

Denzel Washington preaches

Denzel gave a homily (my interpretation) to young aspiring actors the other day. Another reason to love this man!

To wit:

  • The desire in our hearts for things that are good is God’s proof to us, sent beforehand, to indicate that it is ours already.
  • Dreams without goals remain dreams and ultimately fuel disappointment.
  • Goals on the road to achievement cannot be achieved without discipline and consistency.
  • Put your shoes way under the bed at night so that you’ve got to get on your knees in the morning, and while you’re down there, thank God for grace and mercy and understanding.
  • If you just start thinking about all the things you’ve got to say thank you for, that’s plenty.
  • We each have a unique gift given so that we can touch and affect people.
  • You’ll never see a uHaul behind a hearse: it’s not how much you have; it’s what you do with what you have.

Preach, brother.

[Photo: BBC, 2010]