“I’ll be done with this post since I’m getting tired and my thoughts are not as clear and crisp as they could be. But in my next post, in the future sometime, I want to touch on how my beliefs have changed in the last 5 years, who has changed my mind on certain things, and where I find hope now. That last part, the hope part, is so important. Because I get that there are a lot of disenchanted Christian church people out there who might relate with some of this stuff – but still love Jesus and want to find something to believe in. I know. Me too. And I think I’m coming out of the dark cloud pillar… but only to realize I’m wondering in a wilderness for the rest of my life. (I love the Exodus story for Moses and all that if you haven’t picked up on that yet… brilliant writing. Seriously. Brilliant.)”
Me – Exodus Part 2
A little something for you to listen to while you read the rest of this post. ^_^
Leaving “The Ministry”
Sometimes I stare off and wonder where the hell I’ve been the last 4 years. I mean after leaving my job in the church as a Youth Pastor in Thousand Oaks. I wonder if it’s been worth it, or if I made some grand mistake. It’s not that I am not happy with where I am today, but it is easy to look back and wonder “what if”. For those who know anything about chaos theory, there are an infinite number of results to every decision made every single day. What if I went left instead of right? What if I went 65mph instead of 45mph that one day? A good example: just today there was a shooting at the Clackamas Mall (less than 10 miles from our house in Portland) and I can’t help but wonder… what if we were still there? What if we never left? Only God knows if we would have been there today… Ok, I encourage you to stop thinking about chaos theory if I got you started – it never leads to anything productive. But it is definitely interesting to wonder…
And for this particular post, I am interested in where I have come spiritually over the last 4 years as a result of leaving the church (and friends) behind and moving on to other things.
For a few people who end up reading this, maybe you have no concept of what my life was like while I was working in the church as a Youth Pastor. What the hell is a youth pastor anyway? Like a counselor? Teacher? Coach? Activity planner? Music Leader? YES. All of those. But what does a Youth Pastor do? Well – depends on the YP and the church. I would say there are a lot of hard working YP’s out there who give more of themselves than they probably should and who get very little in return (both monetary and in terms of instant gratification). Of course, you hope long term to have some sort of impact on teenagers and their lives, but, ultimately, it’s almost impossible to tell. And then there are some YP’s who barely do anything and collect on a pretty sweet gig and salary without very much sweat and tears. In the right church, YP’s receive almost rock-star like status and are liked and known by thousands of people in the church and are perceived as the coolest guy/girl around (especially to the attention hungry youth). Everyone knows who you are and wants to talk with you even if you have no idea who they are. It’s a hard role to be in and stay humble.
So there is a comfort in it. There is a warmth in the attention and “glory” you receive for “helping” teenagers and it’s just downright fun to “hang out” for a job. Sure there are times of serious heartache (death & violence, bullying and humiliation, family crisis and divorce) – but most of the time, compared to what I know of the work-world now, it’s a walk in the park. A stroll on the beach. Literally.
And for this very reason I find myself staring off in a deeply jealous state of mind, wishing I was back in the safety of that job, in the comfort of those friends, and the privilege of that place.
In Open Waters
I feel like moving to Portland was casting off into open waters. Blue waters in front of us and no idea where we might land. There have been storms and sirens, long bitter Winters, and cold lonely nights. There has also been rainbows and babies, deep content and happiness, and a healthy kind of tired only parents understand. We have been blessed with three beautiful, amazing children, and somehow we (Robin and I) are still together and working at our marriage every day. The open waters were tough, but I feel like we might be landing on solid ground soon. The first years of parenthood are nothing short of war. You just blearily put your head down and get through it, holding on to memories on photographs and 1 minute video clips. And then one day, you find solid ground again and the sun streams down on you and you squint and wonder – where the hell have I been? What have I been through? How did we make it?
And inevitably: Where are we?
Where I am
At this point, I could outline my beliefs and convictions as follows:
- I strongly believe that love is the overarching answer to any question of faith, religion, or politics.
- I also believe that love wins (and by wins I mean loses in the competitive sort of way)
- I believe nothing is worth condemning someone over – no matter how evil or vile it appears or seems to be (even to the majority).
- I believe God loves us, unconditionally, and will never stop pursuing us or loving us (and never has).
- I believe there is no end, only new beginnings.
- I believe that no one knows what happens when we die. It is the great mystery, and all we can do is HOPE.
- I believe hope is equally as important as love. Especially the hope for love.
- I believe that we all fall short – of whatever bench mark we have been given in our life – of God, of our parents, of our friends, of our partners and spouses, of our kids… at some point we all fuck up.
- I believe that forgiveness is not something that you give or say with your mouth, but it is a letting go of the past.
- I believe in equality. Men/Women. Straight/Gay. Black/White and everything in-between Christian/Mulsim/Jew/etc. We all have beating hearts made from the same materials and we all are searching for love, meaning, and significance.
- I believe we are all selfish, which is both good and bad – and true wisdom comes when we decipher when it’s ok to be selfish, and when we need to put others first.
- I believe that America is NOT God’s country, nor is any government God’s. God is not in the business of controlling people and setting boundaries and borders. God is in the business of acceptance and peace and love. Go figure.
- We should never let anything own us: money, possessions, ideas, beliefs, people, etc. We were meant to live freely – and free does not mean having a lot of money. It’s an internal state of mind where we are completely independent from any strings or ties that might hold us down.
- There are way too many people in the world (especially youth) who want to be cool. I wish more than anything that we could all just be the silly, stupid people we all are.
I suppose I could go on, but then it’s starting to feel a little like a soap box – and I definitely do not think that standing on any sort of elevated surface and yelling at people changes anyones mind about anything. Maybe there was a time for that, but not these days.
The Next Thirty Years
I have no idea what the next thirty years will be like, or if I get another thirty. But I hope they are filled with laughter and hugs and charity. I hope they are filled with an abundance of love, both given and received. I hope it is filled with super hard situations which blossom into beautiful perfect moments. I hope that I sweat more and teach my children how to work hard but not too hard. I hope it is filled with rain and just enough sunshine that I fully appreciate it. I hope it is filled with open fields and long walks. I hope it is filled with plenty of Robin, Amalea, Maya and Olivia – my girls.
And finally, I hope it is filled with you. All of you I have known over the years. I miss you. I’m sorry I have been a cast-away for so long. I look forward to seeing you face to face again and sharing a story or two. I hope you know I think of you, and I hope you think of me. I hope every effort has been worth it over the years, and that our breath has never been wasted.
Much Love. Peace. and Hope.