June 24, 2009

...the rest of the story


Two posts in two days! That's a record for me, I think. I used to post more often, but we won't get into that conversation.

I hope y'all are happy. I'm skipping my morning dose of Rachel Maddow to write this. I record her show at night and then watch it before work while I'm having my coffee. As I was checking my mail this morning though, I got Tim's comment and was reminded of my promise last night to pick up where I left off.

Speaking of Tim's comment, he sure did hit the nail on the head with facebook, didn't he?! He always leaves such nice comments. It's like coming home from the grocery store and finding a nice note taped to the door. "Stopped by to say 'hi', but you were out."

Or maybe I've been reading too much Jane Austen (in the period of her novels, visitors leave a card/note when the people they popped in on aren't home to let them know they were there). Okay. That made sense in my head. Honest.

On a side note, if you guys haven't read Tim's blog, I highly recommend you start. Add him to your reader, and you'll find yourself fairly blessed. I actually use his posts as part of my daily "devotions" in the morning. I put devotions in quotes because I'm horrible about setting aside time for them. But I know I can, at the very least, spend a few minutes reading Tim's latest insight every day. Makes me feel a little better on my lazy days anyway.

Now where was I headed last night when I stopped? Oh, right: church.

So, as I mentioned, things are a little different than I'm used to there. The thing that's important, to me anyway, is that nothing is different enough to be uncomfortable. The exciting thing is, they are actively learning and growing, and there are some changes in the works. It's not all stuff that will happen overnight, as they are trying to do things slowly, purposely, and prayerfully. It turns out I started attending at the tail-end of years of planning, research and praying in this congregation as to what God's plans and intentions for this body are. So not only is it exciting for me as a new member, it's also an exciting time for everyone else too.

I had been saying for weeks that I needed to really spend some one on one time with God talking about whether or not to join this church, but never got around to it. Then Sunday morning would come and at the end of service, I would want to head up front to declare my intent to join, but I couldn't without talking to God first.

So on Sunday morning two weeks ago, I was going down my list and praying and actually remembered to drop this off in God's mail slot. Well, turns out all I had to do was ask. God quickly made it abundantly clear that this was the right direction for me at this point in my life. I've only had a few moments in my life where I've had that much indescribable peace about a decision.

I then made sure that it was okay with Cody before church that morning. He's gone a few times, and I didn't want him to feel like I was making this decision without his input. I let him know that I wanted to become a member and wanted to make sure he didn't have any objection to it. He may or may not become a member there eventually himself, but I wanted to make sure that I wasn't becoming a member somewhere he was uncomfortable. He asked me what all that involved, and pretty much said that, so long as I didn't have to sacrifice a live animal to do it, he was cool with it. Gotta love him...

Turns out I genuinely surprised the Pastor when I walked to the front of the church, too. He has since explained to me that he knew I had been struggling for a while with my faith and finding a church. He knew from emails I had sent him and from reading one of my posts here that I'm pretty picky (for lack of a better word) about where I worship.

One thing I find particularly awesome is that Pastor has agreed to help me out one-on-one with some pastoral counseling. I had explained to him that I've had issues (understatement much?) with depression and anxiety in the past that have cause problems for me and also in my relationships. I didn't go into detail at the time, but I mentioned my past experiences with therapy and medication. Since I had agreed back in September to try therapy again with and/or without Cody, I still haven't seen anyone though.

I pretty much asked if Pastor would be willing to be an accountability partner for me in my therapy, and be available to talk about it on occasion to try and make the process a little more comfortable. I hoped that a little guidance from him would alleviate some of the concern with the sometimes conflicting secular/spiritual aspects of therapy.

Well, thankfully, Pastor agreed to not only help by being my accountability partner, he offered his pastoral counseling as well!

So this past Monday, I had my first appointment to talk with him, and it was wonderful. He really is a good man, with a huge heart, and he actually listens without judging. I'm so encouraged by that first visit, and have great expectations of blessings to come.

I talked a bit more in depth about my past experiences, which fairly well mortified him, and we spent some time discussing "The Plan" a bit more specifically. He's totally on board with the idea of seeing him as well as a "traditional" therapist. The therapist can deal with things outside of his scope, and Pastor will hold me accountable to make sure I'm actually participating as well as be a sounding board for how therapy is going in general. Additionally, he has agreed to help me with the spiritual side of my struggles and relationships.

I really am stoked!

I also really am going to be late for work if I don't wrap this up....


ellenjane said...

I think this is awesome Jake, and that Pastor sounds really great!

Pete said...

You sound so happy it's nearly infectious!

I'm so glad you found a church home that you can be yourself in, and grow and prosper in. I'm also glad you found a pastor able to walk with you on this path and is there to encourage you.

I'm so very happy for you!!!!

Julie said...

I don't know what else to say aside from that I am really happy for you! Pete is right - you sound so happy in your writing "mood".. that makes ME happy:)

Tim said...

Want to add my voice to this choir... What a great blessing for you AND the church.

Hundreds of years ago, when I first got out of college, I had the great fortune to join a growing congregation led by a whip-smart, grounded, and truly pastoral shepherd. He and they took me under wing; after I got my own personal issues on the mend and acclimated to their faith approach and culture, they put me work.

That's when I learned what a true "growing church" is--it's not in the numbers or anything you can actually see on the surface. It's in the people; if they're there to grow and their leaders want their people to grow (which isn't the case if the ministers are insecure, etc.), all the visible signals of growth naturally happen.

All observers could see was secondary at best to us. Our pastor kept reminding us that people don't grow churches, churches grow people. And that's what we did.

During the decade I worked and worshiped there (before relocating for a new job), we went from a few hundred when I joined to 10K+. (I was just there several months ago and the pastor told me the membership is more than twice that now.) Yet the spirit of the people and the Spirit of the Lord are the same as when I joined. Despite it's size, it's not one of those megachurches with all sorts of gimmicks and gizmos; it's just a much bigger garden built on the same rich soil.

Jake, your description of what you're experiencing right now took me back to my first experiences there. I felt a huge surge of joy. They were undoubtedly the most precious and significant days of my life. I pray the same for you and encourage you to BE the church rather than belong to it. You belong to Christ; His grace and mercy allow you to be part of His body. So grow and prosper by learning, being, giving, loving, and helping others to do the same!

(And thanks for the compliments and endorsement. I'm humbled and delighted at the same time!)