Dear brothers and sisters,
This document comes to you with a mixture of gratitude, excitement, and sadness. Gratitude that God has given me the opportunity to graze in your pasture for a season, excitement about what God has in store for both of us down the road and around the corner, and sadness that this chapter of life and ministry partnership is coming to completion.
Sadness is an odd thing – three different kinds of sadness come to mind. First, I was sad when Teresa had to have our dog Sophie put to sleep a couple of months ago now. That sadness was about loss. Second, I’ve been sad about some of the choices my kids have made this past year. That sadness was about regret. But there’s a third kind of sadness … and this is the kind I've experienced before and that I’m experiencing now.
This this kind of sadness was the kind I knew after my seminary graduation was over, the lights had been turned off, and we all headed back home. I knew that a four-year adventure had come to an end – and yet I also knew that that was the plan from the day classes began. I knew some fantastic "with-God things" had happened – and that was the joy of it all. And yet I also knew that I’d never know these same people, in the same way again – and that was the genesis of the sadness I felt.
We’d graduated and it was time to move on. We had new God-given endeavors to set our hands and hearts toward. And this kind of sadness I felt that night in 1984 is the kind of sadness I feel right now, almost exactly twenty-two years later. It's a sadness that isn't about regret or loss ... it's about completion.
I knew when I came to dwell among you as your interim pastor-teacher that my time would be measured. But what I didn't know was that our time together would go by with the speed of dream. And yet through it all – through all the meetings, the planning, the studying, the teaching, the shepherding, the prayer, the counseling, the worshiping, the ministering, and the partying – I have been reborn. Not in the John 3:7 way. But more like the way Adam might have felt like in the Garden of Eden when God came near, leaned over him, placed His mouth onto His, and breathed life into him.
God has used you (both individually and collectively as the whole Ogden Church flock) to rebirth in me vision, passion, determination, joy, patience, and much more that I continue to discover. And for this I will be forever thankful.
In a different time and a different place perhaps our paths might have crossed more permanently. But because that was not God’s intention for now, the completion of our time together cannot be about loss. Instead, it must be about having the kind of faith that holds onto God with all we’ve got regardless of whether or not God’s plans for us have been clearly laid out for us, or are yet to be fully revealed. Like they say in AA, “Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.” And so you and I must continue trusting Him.
Know with confidence that I will always be God-thankful that He saw fit to hook us up and walk with us down this stretch of road. I couldn’t have asked for better leaders to dwell among and labor with, a better staff to have been yoked with, or a better church family to have ministered alongside.
God will lead you to His permanent choice for a pastor-teacher … and when He does you will dumbfounded at the perfection of His plans! Like the prophet Habakkuk wrote, “Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days – You would not believe if you were told.” (Habakkuk 1:5).
Habakkuk’s name literally means “embrace”? And so with Habakkuk’s name and the power and truth of this verse firmly in mind …
- I challenge you to invite the truth and the memory of what has happened in the past seven months embrace you and show you God’s provision for you … and
- I challenge you to invite the truth and the joy of what is happening right now embrace you and show you God’s loyalty to you … and
- I challenge you to invite the truth and the hope of what will happen in the months ahead embrace you and be God’s refreshment to you.