I do not know where to start today - as I collect my thoughts. My heart hurts. I've had several people tell me "not to feel" the way that I'm feeling - which I don't particularly care for, because they're my feelings - and I have a right to them. I understand their sentiments, yet, they are not me. They have not endured what I've endured - or walked my beaten path. I feel that until someone truly understands one's path -- they don't really have a right to tell you how to feel, especially when it comes to the grieving process. And this is what I've been going through as of late, a grieving process.
My beloved pastor of the last four years will preach his final sermon this Sunday at my church. It's Easter Sunday on top of this - as well as communion Sunday. A triple whammy. Three really emotional things for me. I'm sort of without words, but I know that on some level I need to get this out of me, and on to some sort of medium. So, alas - I write.
I am fully aware that my pastor is just a man. I've never thought of him as more than this -- for I have been in position in a church where I have been devastated when a pastor left -- and stopped going to church as a result. I know now that my foundation was not in Jesus - at that particular time -- but hey -- I was 13. This time round is a whole new ballgame.
As a very small child I was taught about Jesus. I was Seventh Day Adventist. I could not tell you now what that means, but I was taught about Jesus the man, the Son of God and the Savior of the world. I thank God for this -- and my dad. I knew from a very small child that Jesus was very kind. Somewhere in the growing years however, I went to other churches that didn't seem to tell me much about Jesus -- but about God and how intolerant, and mad He was. I've always had a conflict in my spirit about this. It wasn't what I'd been originally taught. I suppose that I learned to accept it, for I took it in, but somehow something just wasn't right. Yet and still, I set about trying to keep "the law" as best I knew how. Being raised by a perfectionist did not help any. Not only did I feel like I needed to be perfect in life, but to God. All the while, filled with fear and terror - I knew from the get-go I was (as was my life) going to be a huge, horrific, let down to all parties involved. Including, and to the utmost, God. I led a life of feeling like an alien, and completely different (from day one that I can recollect) from other people. Different in our society is not good. Different stands out. Or at least that is what I thought. It's how I felt and I felt it deeply. I wasn't just a person that had problems, I WAS a problem.
I suppose in many ways this is what began my addictions. It was (my using and drinking) the only thing that made me feel somewhat normal --- or it gave me courage. Alcohol has (for years) been attributed to being a social lubricant - and it's why for the most part it's the high light of parties. People become wittier, more lively, and just more fun to be around. It just made me feel Okay. Because I did not feel okay without it, or some kind of substance. The difficulty here is that it begins to take more and more to make you feel okay -- and then eventually it just doesn't work, and your life becomes a living nightmare. The alcoholic doesn't understand why it isn't working, so one continues to do it in the hopes that it just might work... this time - over and over and over. Because that's the only coping skill he or she has. And denial protects this -- like Fort Knox.
I lived this way - for years. Despite consequence after consequence. Two inpatient treatments - and one out. I eventually lost my career over it. Grace has been the only thing that has given me back my life.... The grace of God has given me back my life -- literally.
Finding Midland church was just a whim. I'd decided to try churches until I found one that fit me. Midland was the one that I went to first - and I never left. What I heard preached that day from Paul White was that God wasn't mad at me - and that Jesus was who I originally knew Him to be -- who I'd been taught He was as a small child. After the sermon, I sort of sat there in awe. At first I didn't quite know what to think -- but that I knew I'd found my church home. I had to shake his hand. I had to meet this man. And I did. And I sought him out for the next three + years.
Now this Sunday is his last until he comes to visit us. He is going to take and preach grace to the rest of the world. I'm happy about this - but I'm not happy that he is leaving Midland. How could I be? This man is extraordinary. The holy spirit in this man is beyond any I've ever seen - nor heard. Talk about anointed? This is an understatement.
Easter is such a precious time. A time of celebration. Yet every Sunday at my church is glorious - because we celebrate the finished work of Jesus Christ. Not just on Easter. This Sunday will be hard for me. Despite people telling me that I should feel this way or that. Pastor Paul has been the first pastor that has ever been able to reach me at a depth that I could let go of the shame of my past -- and fully understand that I'm not a mistake - I've made them, but that did not make me one. It never did. There are times in your life when you meet people that have tremendous impacts on you. How this man has presented Jesus to me has forever transformed my life. I will NEVER be the same. Now I know that it wasn't Paul White that did this, it was Jesus. Jesus healed my heart. He washed away the shame, and taught me how to forgive myself... but some times the vehicle in which you get to the destination is just as important as the destination itself. I give credit where credit is due. The Jesus in my pastor is like no other that I've ever seen, and I doubt that I will see again. Some may say that this isn't having hope, or faith --- but I have plenty... and I know that God can/has/will do amazing things YET- and that I'd imagine this is only the beginning for me. However what a beginning it's been.
Farewell my brother in Christ, my beloved pastor. May the peace that passes all understanding and joy unspeakable follow you all the days of your life..... for the gifts, the immeasurable gifts that you've given me. Because of you -- and the Jesus in you:
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (NKJV)