Saturday, December 1, 2018

People come, people go

Relationships are an important part of our lives. They play a large part in helping our development as people - especially in our younger years. But what about when relationships don't turn out as we had hoped or expected?

When I did an internship at a church several years ago, one of the first things the pastor told me to always remember is that "people come, and people go". He was the pastor of a newly planted church and went on to say that the people who are with you at the beginning are very often not with you by the end, so it is best to hold onto relationships lightly, accept what they bring to the table at the time, and be prepared to let them go when their time with you comes to an end.

I recently had a strong revelation of this in my own life. About 15 years ago I moved out of my parent's house for the first time and moved cities to attend bible college at a live-on campus where I would be studying, living and working on-site. I was very naive and very lost at this point as I was young and inexperienced with life, and I had no idea who I really was and what my calling was. I needed mentoring and people outside of my own family to help me continue on the journey of life and faith that I had only just started walking.

While I was there, I met a family who I immediately felt a connection with. They took me under their wings and spent a lot of time with me. I needed this connection at the time and I was grateful to be included into their lives. They welcomed me into their family and I got to know them and their children well. We would eat meals together and I would often come to their unit for movie nights. They were warm, caring and accommodating. Even when I left the campus for 3 months to work in a church in another city, we kept in touch. At the end of my first year at bible college, they announced that they had accepted a pastoral role at a church and would be taking over not long after graduation. I was excited for them and we promised to keep in touch even though the year at bible college had ended.

When I did my second year at bible college I went and worked at their church for 4 weeks as part of my studies. I stayed at their house during this time and got to know the rest of the congregation well. I graduated from my second year at college and after doing some traveling and spending some time working in a big city, I got a phone call from my old friend who was pastoring this church inviting me to come down for a weekend. So I did, and during this time I realized that God was leading me to move down to the city they were living in and to become a member in their church. I was confident and excited about this as I already had such a strong relationship with the pastors and their family plus I had worked with their church for that 4 week period, so I looked forward to good times ahead.

However from not long after I moved down there I began to notice things that made me realize all wasn't going to be quite as rosy as I thought. The pastor, who had always been so warm and kind, now seemed constantly angry, frustrated and stressed out. He was constantly yelling at his children and seemed a world away from the guy I had once known from bible college. The church also didn't seem to be doing as well as I had first thought - as time went on I began to see more and more people decide to leave. Things began to happen in the church that I do not believe were blessed by God - the pastor decided that we should have a worship band because another pastor said it was a good idea, so we attempted to put a worship team together but no matter how hard we tried, it just didn't work and we were constantly fighting an uphill battle to get this band working. I love playing music but even I began to resent playing with the band as nothing went smoothly and it was a struggle to just be able to play a few songs together on Sundays. We had good musicians in the church but I just do not believe in my heart of hearts that we were meant to have a live worship band at that church - yet here we were, trying to make something work that just was not working.

I also began to see changes in my personal relationship with the pastors. I was now in my mid 20s and beginning to form my own opinions and ideas about life, God and what my calling was. I have held a long standing belief that the darkest parts of your life are the parts that need to be fully faced and shared in order to bring revelation and healing - hence why I called my first book "No Way Out But Through", which I was writing at the time. The pastor did not agree with this thinking and his advice was "think positive". Not bad advice by any means but I was in a season of my life at this point where I was heading for burnout and I didn't even realize it at the time, and a big part of the journey I was on was about facing the darkness I carried within myself. The pastor could not relate to where I was coming from and even said to the guy who was helping me get my book published that he didn't agree with the book I was writing, when I knew I was doing something God wanted me to do. This also began to create a wedge between us.

I also began to see signs of real insecurity in his heart - the pastor had a difficult background and although he portrayed a very confident image at first, the more time I spent with him I began to realize he was very insecure about the concept of family and almost seemed to idolize his marriage, and would talk very anxiously about "how he would be still rich as long as he had his family even if he lost everything" - but it was said with so much anxiety and fear in his voice it made me really begin to wonder who he was trying to convince - everyone around him, or himself. I began to sense that his insecurity about holding onto family was bleeding down into the church and that members of the congregation were perhaps feeling that they were just there to help satisfy his insecurities, and therefore this began to drive people out of the church. The other extreme of this was when if he felt wronged by someone he would be ruthless and very quick to burn bridges with those people. The worst example of this was when the pastor showed up at the house of his 2IC (who is still a good friend of mine) and announced to him that he was removing him from the leadership team - at 7:00 in the evening while the 2IC was watching a movie with his family. I couldn't believe this when I heard it but somehow it also didn't surprise me.

After almost a year and several significant people leaving the church, the pastors announced that they were no longer going to as the church I had come to join and were going to replant under a different name. At this point something in my spirit began to realize that I wasn't meant to be here anymore and that it was time to move on and find another church, but I failed to recognize what was happening in the spirit and kept on trying to attend this church anyway out of loyalty to my old friends that I had such a good connection with in the past. The more I tried to make it work, the harder it seemed to be and once the worship band was (thankfully) dissolved, I began to attend the church less and less. After a year of this attempt at church and seeing even more significant people leave, the pastors announced they weren't going to continue as this church and were going to replant again under yet another name. I halfheartedly decided I would give this "new" church a go but it went the same way that the others did and not long after I went through burnout and was told off by the pastor for being too negative in my thinking, as well as being told that the worship band was no longer happening because I was "unreliable" (when the church should never have had a band in the first place) I made the decision to leave. I was personally insulted by the pastor when I went to see him about this and called names ("you're a chump" was the first one that I can recall) and finally found a new church - one where I felt right at home straight away and made me wish I had left several years earlier like I was meant to.

A few years after I left, the third incarnation of church being run by the pastors whom I once knew so well also closed down and they stopped pastoring for good. I heard a saying when I was at bible college that has always stuck with me - "The pastor's heart determines the health of the church". Throughout my time with this family and their three churches I began to realize just how true this statement was - what they carried in their hearts was revealed in the church. The pastor's insecurity about family killed the church they were leading three times over. I admit I could certainly stand to learn a bit more about positive thinking as he wanted me to - but I also felt very strongly he should have adhered a bit more towards the "No Way Out But Through" approach that I have adapted and that perhaps if he had done this and dealt with his insecurities instead of letting them bleed out into the church, he may have fared better as a pastor and the church may have continued on longer and in a healthier manner.

Just recently I bumped into my old pastor who has since moved to where I now currently live. We hadn't seen each other in 5-6 years and it was rather awkward but it felt like it was the right thing to happen. He mentioned it would be good for us to catch up sometime. Since this time I spent with his churches I have become much more aware of what is happening in the spirit realm with me and I have begun to realize a lot quicker when my time is up somewhere and God is moving me on. I always regretted not leaving his church when I was meant to and I felt that the relationship between us became a lot worse because I was there when I wasn't meant to be so I sent the pastor a facebook message to apologize for what part in this was mine and to try and mend things between us. I never even got so much as a reply back from him even though he said he wanted to catch up and I was trying to apologize and put things right between us, so he obviously didn't mean it when he said it would be good to catch up. I realized at this point that this relationship was dead and buried and that we would have no further part in one another's lives.

I have learned a great deal from this experience. Firstly I have learned that in relationships it is easy to project onto another person what we think they are like based on what we see about them. I was convinced when I first met this family that the man who would become the pastor was a warm, confident and caring person through and through and I had no idea he was as insecure as he was and how poor a leader he would turn out to be. Looking back I realize that he was always idolizing his family and marriage as even at bible college he would endlessly talk about family, and that this was a red flag to watch out for when it came to trusting a leader in a church context as it was based in such panic and insecurity but I didn't realize this at the time - or I didn't want to realize it as I thought it wouldn't be a big deal. I should have realized this was not a healthy church environment and that he wasn't who I thought he was when my friend was removed from his 2IC position as abruptly as he was - but once again I didn't give this the attention it deserved because I didn't want to see it.

I also realized that the relationship I had with him was for a time, and for a reason and a season. We were meant to have the connection we had at bible college as it was something I needed at that time and out of this connection I was lead to join his church, which was the right thing for me. However, that was all it was meant to be, and I was meant to leave that church after the first year. Where I went wrong was to try and keep that connection alive beyond its time. I was holding onto an old idealism in my mind of who these people were which was no longer based in reality - either they had changed significantly since pastoring this church, or they had always been this way, but a lot better at hiding it back then. Even though the signs were obvious -  a big one being that by the end I could barely even be bothered to show up at church anymore, not out of offence or anything but because my heart just completely wasn't in it, and I'd been through enough - I still refused to let it go because I was holding on to the past. By not accepting and realizing that this connection had served its purpose and that it was time to let it go, I continued to hold on and therefore made things worse.

I have realized since then that there have been other people that have come into my life that were meant to be there for only a season, and not long term - so I have realized that the best thing to do is to let them go and not try to keep something alive that is actually trying to die. It has made me realize just how important discerning what purpose people are meant to serve in our lives is before we make any commitments to them. I married the right person who God told me to marry so I know I have made the right choice in this area - I can only imagine the pain and heartbreak that must come into someone's life if they decide to marry someone who God has only brought into their lives for a season, or if someone makes another type of commitment to someone they shouldn't have, like going into a business partnership.There is definitely an element of fantasy that also contributes to us wanting to keep hold of things and people beyond their time with us - such as wanting to believe someone is something they are not and believing that their positive past experiences with a person means that they will also have a positive future with them, which is often not the case.

So let me put this to you - are there people in your life whose season with you has passed on, and you are holding onto them longer than you should be? Are you stuck in a situation where the only thing keeping you there is how great things "once were" and your dwelling on the past in a sense is keeping you from seeing the truth that it is time to move on, and that there are relationships that need to be allowed to die for that to happen? If you know in your heart that this is the case - make the right choice. Don't wait too long like I did. People come and go, and few people are meant to be part of your life forever. Be thankful for the good times in the past, but don't let the positive memories of the past cloud your judgment of the present.

Take care.

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