The year 2012 was probably one of the hardest years of my life. In the early part of the year there were a number of ministry issues that had escalated to significant concerns for our church. For six months there were many difficult conversations and very damaged, hurting people. The outlook for restoration looked very bleak.
By early summer there was a break through and we found some resolution. The restoration of broken relationships was still a long way off but we had made strides in the right direction. The day we reached a final resolution was the first day of our family vacation. It couldn’t have come at a better time. I was wiped out, exhausted and was beginning to question if I was in the right ministry.
Our 10-day vacation was too short. While we were away I prayed a lot and asked God if it was my time to step away and move on to something else. Honestly the conversation was a little more like this: “God, I’m tired, worn out and disillusioned with the church and its people, so I’m ready to walk away, just tell me I can go.” God didn’t answer the prayer the way I wanted. He actually said wait. If you’ve ever prayed and either didn’t hear from God immediately or he said wait it’s pretty frustrating.
Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14
Within a few weeks after our vacation I received a call from my sister that my mother was given days may be weeks to live. She had been battling cancer for over a year and unfortunately the cancer was winning. I went back east and spent four weeks with my mother before she was called home. It was a difficult few weeks but I wouldn’t have changed anything about it.
The funeral was nice and following the interment ceremony and fellowship dinner I returned to the grave site to ensure that everything was completed properly. As I stood there staring at my mother’s temporary marker I felt empty. Both of my parents were now gone and I felt my life was on hold as I waited to hear from God. I noticed the dash between my mother’s birth year (1942) and her death (2012). That the dash represented all the time she had here on earth. The dash is what we were promised in this life, no matter how long or short the dash; we only have so much time. As I stood there, what seemed like hours were only a few moments, I realized that I wanted my dash to be more then what it currently represented. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t displeased with my life, I just knew it had to be more. That God created me for more. I just wasn’t sure what more was but I did know something had to change. God has a plan for my life and I needed to walk in it.
When I returned home I felt God confirming in my heart that things needed to change. Yet, I still wasn’t sure what that change meant. Over the next 12 months with each step I took God began to unveil the path he had for me. By the end of 2013 I was enrolled in seminary and on a new path to fulfill the pastoral calling that God placed on my heart. By summer 2015 I resigned from my position in ministry to rest and focus on the next season of my life. In 2012 I would have never thought the path God had me on would be to step away from full-time ministry. I am still very active in my local church and support many ministries and I love being a pastor to others. I am thankful that God instructs me each day and teaches me the way I should go. I have 18 months left in seminary and with each class and each day that passes God reveals more of his plan for my life.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Psalm 32:8
My dash has more depth and meaning as I fully embrace God’s plan and design for my life. My dash will hopefully be marked as one that was obedient to God and at the end of my dash others would say that I lived a rich full life, I loved others well and that I was a friend of God. I know that the plans God has for me are good.
‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. Jeremiah 29:11-12
Many of you may be at a crossroad in your life and contemplating what your dash should represent. Many of you may even know what you need to do but can’t bring yourself to do it. Be bold. Be brave. Embrace the changes that need to be made to add more depth and meaning to your dash. We only get so much time…make every moment of your dash count.