A Marathon Letter to My Pastor
Dear Pastor, Mentor, and Friend, You are about to run a marathon. Literally run more miles than I can comprehend making my feet cover, and a friend has reached out to me to write you a letter. A message of hope, encouragement, or inspiration. Words to tack inside your mind so that, while enduring the imposible miles, you can draw upon them as support to put one foot in front of the other once more.
I'm not going to give this to you before you run. I am writing it for an entirely different marathon with an entirely different purpose. Our church.
We have, as a church, ventured into unkind territory. Slowly we've endured the hardships associated with a new church plant: strained finances, awkward meeting space, ever changing demographics all the while seeking to discern what God says our people need. Daunting in of itself, you have shouldered the yoke of our church along with a personal terrain that has been grueling. Your family shaken, your role as father and parent more critical than ever. And even with the healthy measures you've set in place, it is taxing. Never have I watched someone continue the run, through it all, as well you have. Marathon no longer applies. Triathlon is more fitting: family, church, and physical lives all together needing your participation. I both admire and stand perplexed at your ability to continue through it.
Several months ago you were asked to identify your Peter, James and John. You called us, myself included, your three. And this is not something I've taken lightly. I look at the parallel's between Jesus and his disciples, and us and our spiritual leader. The disciples could never remove their teacher's burden, as I wish we could. But it is my honest hope that we can stand the gap for you. That when you are frustrated, we bring you the peace of God. When you are tired, that our enthusiasm (or espresso machine) builds you up. When you need shelter, that we can cover you in prayer. We aren't a solution, but we are your support. We love you.
Nobody begins a marathon without conviction, and no one completes it without sacrifice. I imagine that while one runs, miles become painfully measured out in feet; that one feels every inch until the finish line. I feel like this is where we are, inch by inch moving forward. Greater distances nearly unfathomable. Know that wherever these inches lead, I believe in the journey, the cause and the call.
I wrote a blog the other day about the heaviness of my heart through these transitions. As I mentioned, God spoke clearly that removal of this burden was not the deliverance of his relief. Instead, his relief was the increase of my heart's capacity. I pray this for you as well.
Regardless of the journey at hand, I want to take a step back and remind you of the bigger picture in three illustrations:
Eighteen or so years ago a young girl sat in among the congregation of a church. On the car ride to church, she cried as her hair was puled and hands were squeezed and scratched to bleeding by her mother, because she had said something out of turn. She entered the building, tugging the sleeves of her sweater down so that no one could see the marks of abuse. She wiped her face to hide the tears of shame. The adult church service was a bit beyond her understanding, but you Brad, took the stage to perform a skit that offered humor that paired with the sermon. Each week God used you as her relief.
Seven summers ago a young woman, barely twenty, walked towards four men who had always shown her compassion and love. The kind that Jesus healed her heart with. The love that proves we can, indeed, rest in rescue. That we can trust. Dressed in white it was her wedding day. As she walked down the aisle to take her vows, the four men she walked trustingly to were as follows: God, her husband, her father, and you.
One year ago this woman was hired at The Gallery, inspired to serve and lead alongside a leader who (whether he knew it or not) had been cheering her along the sidelines for some of the hardest marathons in her life. When she was abused, God ministered to her through your joy. When she entered into marriage, God ministered to her through your blessing. And now, without a shadow of a doubt, she knows God has created her for this journey. An echo of God's goodness and redemption, past. Because God's goodness and redemption never cease. Never.
I pray, for you, resiliency and peace. And I thank you for all that you do.