One thing I had always prided myself on was my sheer determination to work at something, even when the odds were against it, until it succeeded. Stubborn determination and hard work is what has allowed me to do and accomplish much.
Then something began to erupt at the church I served. It began before I went on Sabbatical and it fermented and grew in my absence. What had once been a healthy thriving place was now toxic for me. There had been so much manipulation in my absence that I was now facing lay leadership that were not only opposed to me, but whom I could no longer trust. I was faced with a situation where success would be extremely difficult, costly and the risks were extremely high. Worse yet I was been told be silent about many of the key issues we faced – in contrast to one of the stated values of the church and one of my personal values – openness.
Then came the sense of call. I must admit that a very strong and clear sense of God’s call is actually a rare thing. It does happen. For me it happened on a Friday night as my daughter was at her swimming lessons.
A father next to me was telling me about how his son wouldn’t even get in the water when there was a substitute teacher. Now that there the teacher that he trusted and he could jump right in. It hit me. If trust has been eroded you can’t help people swim! Then, it was as if my eyes began to be opened in a whole new way. All of the different pieces of the puzzle that lay around me came together in a strange clarity. I could no longer help these people I loved swim as much as I would have liked to. I had to quit and quit quickly or drown in what would come. Suddenly I knew what I had to do and I knew when I had to do it. I knew with a strange clarity that God was calling me to quit and it was both the wisest and most loving thing I could possible do. So Sunday morning I got up, I preached and I resigned. Then in a children’s sermon I gave my parting wisdom – God is found in love. Then I was done.
Even when you are called to quit, it is a terrifying thing. When I walked out I entered the wilderness. Who am I? What have I done? Again and again God reaffirmed my decision and action. Yet to suddenly quit and be done is a shock. It is like jumping into an abyss. No job. Salary and benefits all gone. A big part of my identity gone. Suddenly I was no longer the person who could get things done, who could succeed, who was determined. I had no idea of what comes next. I had no idea of what people would say or think. I was now a quitter. There was just nothing, but the faith to leap.
A wise man once told me how in every spiritual journey there comes a point when the wolves are chasing you and you find yourself at the edge of a cliff. Then we have a choice – jump into the abyss or choose safety and have our soul devoured by the wolves. When we leap we learn that we can fly, he told me. The challenge is that when you leap, there is only the unknown in front of you and waiting for those wings to open . . .