Saturday, September 19, 2009

Big Time Wrestling

For the first 25 years that I served as a pastor, there was a battle going on between my will and God's. Even though I clearly felt called to ordained ministry, I resented it. It wasn't the life I wanted for myself and I was a very reluctant pastor. My resentment toward God was exacerbated when my long marriage to another pastor ended because of his sexual misconduct in the parish we had served together.

Years later, still wrestling with God over my call to ministry and nearly at my breaking point, I went on an individual retreat to sort through it all. While I was there, my spiritual director said something to me that changed my life. She heard about my lifelong battle with God and said, "Nancy, when are you going to learn that God isn't the enemy? He doesn't want to make your life miserable. God loves you and all he wants is for you to love him back." I know it sounds simple, but it had been anything but simple for me to see this.

Many people will say that the key to following God's will for your life is surrendering your own will to God's. It may work that way for some people, but it certainly didn't work that way for me. Surrender is the language of war. When you surrender, you resign yourself to the fact that you've been beaten, or at least you aren't going to win, so you throw in the towel. In surrender, you come to God defeated. It's difficult not to resent someone you have surrendered yourself to. You may continue to want the same things for yourself that you always wanted, but now you're forced to deny them. How can you love someone to whom you have surrendered yourself like that?

When you seek to follow God's will in your life, the real point is, "Do you love God?" If you love God, then you want what God wants. It's not a matter of doing battle with God and surrendering your will to God's will. It's about making God's will your will, too.

Have you ever watched two people who professed to love one another for the rest of their lives grow to become adversaries? Every issue between them becomes a battle of the wills and there is an ongoing struggle to see who will ultimately win the war. But when you love someone, you want what they want, don't you? If the one you love wants to watch a football game on Sunday afternoon, you don't dig in your heels and refuse to allow it. You want them to have what they want. You want them to be happy and their happiness makes you happy, too. Your will becomes the same.

That's how our relationship with God works as well. God isn't the enemy. God doesn't want to do battle with us. God doesn't force us into submitting to him and seeing things his way. God loves us. And God wants us to love him so much that we want what he wants for us.

This truth has changed my life and it's changed the way I do ministry. Although I've been ordained for 30 years, I feel like I've only really been a pastor for the past 5years. I've barely begun to serve as the pastor God wants me to be because it's taken me so long to want that, too. The resentment I once carried in my heart has been replaced with joy. It's been a tough road for me, but the journey was worth it. Now I wait expectantly to see what other adventures God has in store for me as a pastor.

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