Damned If I Do…

It’s an old cliché.
But just because it’s old doesn’t make it untrue.

Sometimes you are damned if you do; damned if you don’t.

I am cognizant that living such a public life as a preacher for a thriving, growing church means the community of believers and the community at large is watching.

Watching and judging every move I made, people had expectations I couldn’t begin to comprehend.

And the truth is, in the face of such tragedy and heartache, I became very, very selfish.

I didn’t want to think of anybody else’s needs. Yet, so many, and not just from my local church family wanted, expected, and needed me to step back in the pulpit. They needed me to normalize their lives by being the same man, the same preacher I had always been.

The day Karen and Cole were murdered, some pour soul–and I am not really sure who it was–told me the church needed me to be strong for them.

It was one of those moments of extreme restraint. Whoever held me back that day is owed a large debt of gratitude.

Maybe selfish isn’t the right word to use. I didn’t then nor do I now want to be perceived as selfish.

On the other hand, pain and horror rendered me incapable of thinking about anyone else’s real or imagined needs. I didn’t know how to anymore. All I could see, feel, and know was my own pain and the suffering of my family.

One of my biggest regrets and worst failures as a husband and a father was putting church ahead of my own family’s needs. And I did it time after time. Truthfully? Some of it was my tremendous ego and the inordinate amount of pride I had in my work–to the point that I self-blinded myself to the needs of those I loved.

And the brutal truth is my own Christianity had already been sacrificed on the twin altars of success and church growth. My family was nothing more than collateral damage.

Long before the events of October 10, 2011 I needed to step back and re-evaluate. I’d like to think I would have, but that’s probably another little self-delusional thought.

Knowing what you have now heard, is it any wonder faith took such a strong hard hit? My faith was already compromised by relying on self and the prideful proverbial bootstraps I used to accomplish my goals and dreams.

Turns out I was pretty selfish before as well.

The point is this: no matter how you judge me or not, being a local church preacher is something I no longer want to do or can.

To those of you who preach, my hat is off in joyful recognition of the tremendous way you serve God’s people. The vast majority of preachers are good, honest, sincere people who seek only to serve.

You deserve more credit and appreciation than you probably get. (And more money!)

I, too, still want to serve. But I have to find a way to do it without forcing my family to squirm in that particular crucible. Even more, I have to find a way that doesn’t compromise my relationship with God.

As self discovery goes, it’s now abundantly clear I was never very balanced nor good at trusting God before. That’s a big part of my new reality. Finding my own faith, learning to trust, and discovering a new voice and a better way to minister is my goal.

Damned if I do? Yes, I walked away. And I have not looked back.

But instead of wallowing in pity and anger, I am choosing to find a new way.
To live.
To serve.
To minister.
To love.

And even though it is hard… Even though I am not sure of where I am going… Even though I still wrestle with God, I sense and feel Him taking these new tentative steps with me.

It’s a new journey.

As one of my favorite classic rock bands sings, Walk on.

Tell me what you think?

(This is a two part article… Damned if I Don’t is up next…)