I made a Deal

In my last semester in seminary I took this class with a professor that I had always admired but had not had the opportunity to take a class with. I jumped at the chance. It was a class on “Spirituality for Church Leaders.”

It was full of writing spiritual reflections, finding spirituality in ones life, and studying the spiritual disciplines of others throughout history. I loved this class. It came at a very opportune time for me. I was nearing the end of my seminary career. It had been over two years of study and ass dragging for me. I had pondered and pined over what I was going to do with myself in a few months.

I had entered seminary with little regard or thought as to what I was going to do when I was done. I just trusted God was going to do something. I was surrounded by colleagues that were applying to calls all over the States or looking to go further in studies, all of them with a plan, hopes or dreams.

I had little more than a firm plan. I was told I could not enter ministry as I was or as I saw ministry. There was not a place for me in the traditional sense to minister to the church. I was encouraged to forge my way in new ways. To make a path in to the margins and do Gods work there.

I was not too sad about this. I could talk myself in to a traditional call. I certainly loved the idea of pension, benefits, and a steady paycheck. I would read CIF’s (Church Profiles) and not be excited by them. I would look at “other church” jobs and not be excited by them either. No one seemed to what to do ministry the way I hoped too.

I applied to social work school and decided to no longer seek a call in ministry. I got accepted to a few schools and my partner and I moved to Louisville, KY so I could attend social work school. Things did not work out as planned and I could not attend grad school. I was looking again at what to do.

I applied to over 35 jobs and was unemployed for the first four months of my marriage. We were broke, living very near the edge, and our student loans were due. Then God called me to ministry. God called me to minister in another denomination. I received a call right before my wife and I were seriously considering moving back to Texas with family.

That’s how I got ordained. That’s how I went in to ministry. Not real thought out. Not a lot of flash. A sort of “Paul off to Damascus sort of thing.” It is nothing new to me. I got saved in a “Paul on his way to Damascus sort of thing” way. My life vacillates between wild extremes.

There is this scene in Robert Duval’s film “The Apostle” where Sonny (Duval) is arguing with God. He’s up in his mama’s house after finding out that his wife is having an affair and his beloved congregation has voted to remove him as their pastor.  Sonny is up there negotiating with God. “Lord I gave you my life. You saved me when I was a little boy. Now, you’ve taken my wife. You’ve taken my church. Either you restore me! Or you give me peace.”

Sonny is agitated, angry, and nervous. Sonny is all over the place. He is begging God for peace in the same breath he proclaims his love for God and that he is still angry at God. Sonny is a wet hot mess.

Here I am today. After a three-year stint in vocational ministry I have been ordained. I am invested in a denomination and lovingly connected to another. I am faced with many choices but few options.

As it stands there is little opportunity for myself to serve in a vocational ministry that will pay me a living wage. I am not alone. I know many ministers in similar circumstances. If they are not there now many are headed that way.

I have been angry. I have wept, mourned, and donned the sackcloth and ashes. I have cursed the day I was born and cursed the church in general. I have told God to kiss my ass. I have lashed out at those that love me. I have tried to forget, heal, and ignore.

You see I made a deal with God. It reminds me of a deal an old professor made with God. You see this professor has difficulty walking. I am not sure what asserted itself upon them to enable them to be reliant to a mobile scooter but they are. This professor shared a story with us in that class the last semester of my seminary career.

They shared that when their son was ill, severely ill and in danger of losing his ability to walk. They yelled at God and argued with God. “I suffer in this condition. I suffer silently to your glory. I do this so that he (their son) does not have to suffer. I suffer for you so he does not have to suffer.” It was a powerful moment in my life.

It reminded me of my deal with God. The one in which I gave God my life in service and I would be cared for. The deal in which I gave up all to follow. It was my “pearl of great price” moment. I literally sold all I had and followed God.

I needed an undergraduate degree to go to seminary. I quit my decent paying job with ladder climbing hope and went back to school. I liquidated my retirement plan to pay for the first year I spent catching up on credits to take classes that could get me a degree.

When all that ran out I argued with God. I begged for answers, for hope. I had to give up my apartment. I had to move in with my mom and help her out. I wrestled with God on the way to and on the way from class. I argued with God on my way to youth group and on the way back from youth group.

I have always had a love/hate relationship with God. I love God. I hate God. It almost seems like the same emotion to me. The difference being the physical provision that hangs around.

I am in another spell of loving and hating God. I want to trust God. I want to trust those that comprise the church. I want that deal kept. I give my life over to God in service and God cares for me.

I am in my mom’s house arguing with God. If I can’t get restored, then I want peace. If I can’t get peace than I am not sure what…

4 thoughts on “I made a Deal

  1. RainbowExplorer says:

    Though I have no way of accurately predicting the future of your life, I believe you will find a sense of peace, eventually. It may take several years though, before you reach a state of enlightenment, where you finally understand why all that’s happened needed to happen, to prepare you for the next stage of your life’s journey. In my case, after completing 11+ years of university education, while simultaneously working myself through full-time, I ended up butchered by a surgeon, during a “minor” surgical procedure.

    That catastrophe has not only left me partially paralyzed, in severe chronic pain, on the brink of kidney dialysis, and a whole slew of further complications, but it resulted in the loss of all three of my professional careers (along with my ability to work in any manner), my retirement savings, most of my hobbies, many of my relationships with friends/family members, my ability to travel beyond my local area, and much more. After more than six years of screaming and yelling “WHY?!?!?!?”, I believe I’ve gotten enough of an understanding of how the seemingly random “dots”, in my life, really DO fit together, beautifully, that I can move forward and feel OK about it.

    Grasping the “Whys”, has brought such a sense of peace, to me. Though I cannot answer the “Whys” for your situation, for me, I’m now aware the reasons “why” center around developing the “credentials”, to speak knowledgeably/personally about the serious issues that need to be addressed here. I have a great number of people to tell my story to and even more people to motivate to get the flaws in our system ironed out, so that current and future generations won’t keep perpetuating them.

    Having LIVED the experience, I can testify as a witness, to what happens when just one, single, irresponsible person, supported by an enormously dysfunctional system, can destroy the life of another citizen & seemingly get away with it, with barely a slap on his fingernail. It, also, gives me the credentials necessary, from both the health care provider’s and the health care receiver’s perspectives, to begin tackling the massive inequalities within our health care system. Needless to say, I still have MUCH work yet left to do, as long as my body holds out, in the process.

    Best wishes to you this holiday season. May you be able to “sleep in heavenly peace”.

  2. Ryan,

    It is good to know you are human. From the outside looking in, if seems to me, that God’s plans for your ministry are massive. You make people uncomfortable, you challenge them to look deep inside and encounter change. It is good.

    Romans 5: “1.Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (NIV)

    If anyone has perseverance, and character… it is you!

    • ryan [@rk_p] says:

      Thanks, Holly. Making others uncomfortable is not easy. I’m pondering James 1:2-4 and looking towards these trials as buffing the growing edges I have.
      Peace be with you.

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