This post is going to be a bit more personal in nature, so if you are not into reading the public writing of introspection…
It was just about a month ago I sat at the desk in my office and heard the words that caused me to go numb with dread, “we are letting you go.” I could hear my heart pounding in my ears, I felt nausea rise in my throat. I began to sweat. I could not talk. I could NOT talk. I could not ask why, I could not protest, I could not even cry, at first.
I started working with people living with HIV/AIDS and those at risk for HIV a little over seven years ago. Back then I didn’t know anything about HIV other than the basics. Also some of the people who I was going to be working with had other issues as well. Some used IV drugs. some where homeless, or on the verge of homelessness, most had been rejected in some way, shape or form by “normal” society. So much pain and hurt. So much disconnect. I was nervous that I did not have the ability to help. Not having experienced many of these things. I was concerned that people would see me as an almost middle age white man, unable to connect with them.
I was wrong. And what started out as a job, became a passion. I poured myself into it, it became part of me, and I fell in love with the people I worked with. I think that at times they taught me more that I taught them. I was involved in HIV testing, one on one counseling, developing and running groups and workshops. I attended many off site trainings, eager to learn and to become the best I could be for the people I was helping.
I became an advocate for people living with HIV and I took that passion to the churches I attended, to educate them and encourage them to reach out and love these amazing, wonderful people. Churches have a long way to go in this area if we are ever to convince people living with HIV that God loves them. We have done so much damage.
I also began to take to task the attitudes of some in the church for their angry, and hateful words and actions toward people in the LGBT community. I have become a strong supporter of marriage equality, a view that cost me a leadership position in the church I had attended a couple of years ago. Again, the damage the fundamentalist wing of the Evangelical church has done to the LGBT community is staggering and we have just begun to build a bridge to this community and to see the need to apologize for our hate.
My love for my job continued to grow over the time a worked there. It never got old, or stale.
I developed strong friendships within the agency and felt that as a result of these friendships and the work I was doing, I became a stronger person.
Then on the 2oth of January at around 10:20 AM people whom I loved and trusted shut the book on this chapter of my life…
There are no words profound enough to describe the hurt and feelings of betrayal. There are no words strong enough to expound on the deep pain that stabbed at my heart and soul.
Part of my life died.
Perhaps at this juncture you are thinking to yourself that I am being a bit dramatic and it would sound that way even to me if I had not experienced it myself. I battled with remorse, aching sadness, crying so long and so hard that my eyes burned from the tears. I was angry, and confused, and angry.
I asked God why…He remained silent. he remained silent. I asked again…why…He remains silent still. I went to an Episcopal Church as late as today, lit a candle to symbolize my “why” prayer to God. I prayed out loud in the cavernous sanctuary, hearing my prayers and confessions bouncing off the walls of the empty church.
I lack direction, clarity, even motivation. No answers and only more questions.
Only one thing I have heard the Spirit say to me.
Forgive them or you will be trapped in despair and bitterness.
So I forgave. I have no right to hold onto it after all the God had done for me in Jesus.
But the question remain…”what are You doing to me?” I know that I am forever in the hand of God, and He has not forgotten me, but to be honest,I am NOT happy where I am right now.
I guess this is what trusting Him is all about.
10 thoughts on “Questions…”
Mark, I kinda know what you are feeling (but in a much more tiny way in my own life )- I always beleived God had a plan for everyone – even me!
I have trusted, prayed and just “got on with life”, often not knowing where I am going or even why I have been in the same job for years.
I stil have no clue what His plan is for my life… perhaps it is still to be revealed.
I love working with all the Alcohol, Drug, Homeless folk who come to my place of work, but a wee bit like yourself, await my bosses decision of closing our place down.
I am nae spring chicken either.. and, at times. ask – “Where are you God”
why the silence?
I guess God’s time is different from our time – He does know our fears, worries and hurts – He has not deserted us, He does care.
Sometimes, it is only in those silent moments, that we learn to trust, really trust ..God loves us .and, such love will not let us go.
Whatever we are does not matter so much as just knowing Jesus is our greatest friend and His love is greater than any of our biggest fears.
Hoping and praying that everything works out ok for you.
Don’t give up.. (we miss your blogs!) … just keep trusting!
Thank you for your kind words and for your prayers, and for your honesty.
I do need to thank those silent moments and really listen. Perhaps He is speaking and I have not heard His voice. Pray that I trust Him, pray for God, even though I believe, to help me in my unbelief. Pray that I rest in His arms of grace and unconditional love, and that I am reminded that He never leaves me alone.
Mark,our stories are similar. I served seven years in youth ministry with a huge heart for the kids no one else loved. During this time, I was shocked at how many kids had been told they weren’t welcome in other churches because of how they looked or what they had done. I welcomed them with open arms and many came to know Christ and lives were changed.
A year and a half ago, the church I served in had a change of heart and decided they didn’t support my ministry. Sadly, they didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to come right out and say they were letting me go. Instead, a series of mind games and salary cuts etc. were implemented to push the right button so I would walk away as the bad guy.
Like you, I felt numb, betrayed, hurt and lost. I spent many hours in prayer asking God for direction and healing. It’s been a long journey but I wanted to share where I am at now.
I’ve come to the conclusion that following God is easy when the direction He calls us is where we want to go. It’s when He calls us a new direction that the journey gets difficult…especially when we aren’t sure where we are going. After many months of prayer, healing and seeking, I have begun a new ministry that God opened a door to, serving as a worship team mentor for teens and young adults and ministering to grade school kids. I love it and love the people God has brought into my life.
So in conclusion, God wasn’t silent and ignoring my prayers. He had a plan for me all along but I had to trust Him even though I couldn’t see where I was going. I also had to heal, forgive and forget. I’ll admit, I still struggle with the feelings of betrayal but for the first time since my departure with my old church, I feel like life is once again moving forward.
May God bless you and keep you my friend and thanks for the heart and passion you have for the LGBT community.
Thank you Mike for your encouragement as well. I have been in the church long enough to know how the place that is suppose to bring healing and grace tends to, more often than not, bring deep hurt and pain. I am sorry that you have had to experience that first hand. It is not suppose to be that way. I am thanking God for how He as moved you into another ministry that utilizes your giftings.
Thank you for reminding me that God is still working in my life even when I feel that He is far off. I know that He is not, and I need to remind myself that because of Jesus, He is always right here. Your thoughts and the results of your trusting God through your hurt, give me hope. Peace to you.
Since I began recieving updates to your blog, I’ve felt that I had a brother, a real brother who understood me. We share a passion for those living with HIV infection though my years working for an ASO (AIDS Project Los Angeles) ended before the date you began to do your work. I also as a Christian minister have a strong conviciton and passion for the damage done to others, particularly those from the LGBTQ… community.
Now I write to you as a brother. What is in store for you is far more than you can imagine. In a sense, my brother, you have graduated from two talents to five, that is, you have shown yourself faithful at one level and now are needed at the next. You ask the question, why. I presume to answer it, not because I have an angel whispering in my ear but as someone who has been down the path, an older brother, who knows what you are going through and what it means to you.
Carol Burnett and Mary Tyler Moore both ended their shows at high points because nothing is at the highest point forever. I believe you are being spared from things of which you cannot concieve. There will be someone who continues the work. Don’t worry about your clients. Continue to pray for them and in your way, advocate when the opportunity presents itself.
But God needs you elsewhere now. I don’t know where, what it will look like, or how much you will have to grow and stretch. I only know that he will lead you there and you will grow and stretch. Nothing, absolutely nothing, has been taken away save perhaps the security of knowing who cuts the paycheck. That’s a big thing and a scary thing to lose. But what you have accomplished is not perishable. There is not experation date. It cannot be undone and God needs to move you on and move someone else into your old shoes.
So together let us thank him for the years you have been allowed to serve, for God’s grace in helping you to learn, grow and love. Let us together look forward in anticipation for what comes next in the beautiful life God has given you. If you choose to look ahead and not behind, it can be very exciting, like getting on an amuzement park ride filled with twists, turns and dips and that security belt buckling you in, keeping you safe, even from yourself.
It is most likely that we will never meet face to face, you and I, at least not in this life. I am none-the-less pleased and honored to have a brother like you. I know there is something that comes next. He can’t tell you why he closed one door without ruining the joy and surprise you’ll have at the opening of the next so his silence is that of an expectant father whose excited son stares at the big package under the Christmas tree wondering what is inside, begging to know what it is. The father knows that the surprise is worth the wait.
I hope at some point to be able to meet you in this life and give you the hug you deserve for the encouragement and kindness you have extended to me. You have helped put hope and anticipation in my heart for the next step of the journey. You are right that it is scary, and it is confusing as well. But God does not tell us what is coming. He wants our trust. He wants my trust. It is not easy, I will not pretend that it is. But I can see one thing that he is doing. He knows I struggle with my emotions through this process so He has put many amazing people in my life, to support and to love me through it. Thank you for being one of those people.
Thank you for sharing from your heart, from your pain, and your confusion. We are holding you up in prayer and support. And you are so right—your act of forgiveness was your first step to being Open and Ready for the next “vineyard” where the Lord will bring you to work and share His Love and Light. Thank you again for sharing. In His Hands, Erin in Seattle
Thank you Erin for your encouragement , and thank you too for your prayers and support. They are truly appreciated.
It is a rare person to open his heart the way you have done here in this (and other posts) and for that you are to be commended. You actually say what most people are afraid to say or even admit to themselves. We can so easily deceive ourselves. I find it more than refreshing that such a brother in Christ can share the pain that all of us would feel if we were in your place. In fact, some of us have been there (and may be there again) and your posts helps us all remember – and take to heart – that we really aren’t alone in our heartache, our suffering, our misunderstanding, our anger and utter frustration. We still serve a “Suffering Savior” and are still united to Him. And you Mark, allow us all a true glimpse into your identification with Christ – but you do so with a kind whisper of love that actually sounds like Christ. And for that we should all be thankful as we all sojourn with you.
I am humbled by your words Steve. I am not worthy of them either. I am just a man. A sinful, weak, man. A man who falls too many times into sin…a man who has not conquered the sins of my choice and probably never will. Thus the reason I cling to the grace of God as I do. His unconditional love overwhelms me again and again. In spite of myself! He is with me in my suffering. in my weakness. in my doubt. he is there…he is ALWAYS there. I cannot comprehend such a love, I can only let it wash over me time and time again.