I was about twenty years old and employed by a company who rented safety equipment to contractors working underground. Technically, I held the title of Sales Coordinator, but since the job description was a bit vague, I ended up performing quite a wide range of tasks. One being the pickup and delivery of underground rental equipment, much of which was large and made of thick steel and other heavy material.
I recall one particular instance when a customer called us to a jobsite, about 30 minutes from town, to pick up some equipment that he and his crew had finished using. When I arrived, they had already checked out for the evening and I was left to operate the undersized boom truck and navigate the equipment onto the truck by myself. It wasn’t ideal but it was a situation with which I had become quite familiar.
It was late, darkness from the evening had already settling in, and after spending an unusual amount of time dragging the equipment out from under some trees and shrubs, I started to become leery of the situation I was in. Aside from that, something just seemed a bit off. And, although I still had another 30 minute drive back to the shop, I wanted to get the equipment on the truck, strap it down, and get the heck out of there as quickly as possibly.
I repositioned my vehicle as close to the equipment as I could but still had to extend the boom arm as far as it would reach. Because of the way it was positioned, I had to move to the passenger side of the truck to operate the controls, placing myself between the truck and the equipment. A moment after I lifted the equipment into the air, the weight was too much for the small boom arm to handle so it immediately slammed back to the ground, causing the driver’s side of the truck to raise several feet into the air. As I’m sure you can imagine, this alarmed me. And, because of my already anxious state, I began pulling all sorts of levers, which obviously didn’t help my situation one bit.
If you will, picture this scene for a moment.
On one side, there is a large piece of equipment, standing about ten feet tall, made of heavy steel. And on the other side, half of a boom truck suspended several feet into the air. The pair being connected by a single, undersized boom arm, extended to its fullest, pushed beyond its limits. And then there I was, right in the middle, frantically fighting for a break – an end to this scary and unfortunate predicament I had gotten into.
As you can assume, I didn’t die. I came out physically unscathed but it made quite an internal impression. I remember driving back into town, contemplating what had happened, and formulating what I could have done differently to prevent such potential tragedy.
It’s situations like these, crazy circumstances, that change us. They spin us right round, like a record and force us into an unexpected place, full of instability and helplessness. Sometimes these situations happen suddenly, leaving us frantically searching for a way out. Other times they creep up slowly, gaining more ground with every weakness and every poor decision we make or, better yet, poor decisions others make for us.
When some leave the pastorate, as I did, we often feel hopeless in our situations. Maybe we made the decision to leave, as I did, but that decision, in so many ways, was the direct product of poor choices, big mistakes, or negative influence. In my case, it was all of the above.
Maybe we were asked to leave. Maybe we made a number of serious mistakes that led to our termination. Whatever the case, there are several of us who have found ourselves stuck, as in my story from many years ago, surrounded on both sides. And now our journey has led us to a place where we’re frantically searching for a break, an end to these feelings of failure, regret, burnout, frustration, or anger.
After I left the pastorate, I felt like a part of me had died. As days turned to weeks, weeks to months, the weight of failure grew stronger and I spent several years navigating my thoughts, trying to find answers to those unanswerable questions that nagged me at every turn. I felt awkward and different and I just wanted to give up on church altogether.
Luckily, through friends and family and finding a safe place to worship, I was able to let go of the hurt and shame that fought hard to control me. I found freedom from the notion that I somehow failed as a person because I was no longer a pastor.
As we journey through this together, it’s my hope that we can lean on and learn from one another. We’ve been there. We know how you feel. Now, let’s kick this thing in the neck and find hope and faith and love and a renewed sense of drive and direction. God may not be calling me back into the pastorate, but He is calling me. He’s calling you as well. It’s time to let go of the past, get out from the middle of that difficult spot we found ourselves in, and trust that God actually has a bigger plan that we can even attempt to comprehend.