“What’s wrong?” My wife Liza asked me in the car as we were leaving Horizon Church on Sunday morning. It had nothing to do with the service; I very much enjoyed the passionate, vibrant worship and the powerful preaching. Pastor Craig kicked off a great new series: “More: What if less actually gave you more?” It was an inspiring message reminding us that Jesus has come to give us life, and that more abundantly. But I digress.
What’s wrong indeed?
It had been three weeks since my final service preaching in Beausejour. Three weeks since we moved to Surrey and I transitioned from being a full time pastor to being a school academic advisor and guidance counsellor. And I was feeling a little displaced.
Out of sorts.
After 24 years of being involved in full time pastoral ministry, now I was… what? Just a guy? I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was struggling with my identity, who I was, and where I fit.
As I contemplated my feelings (don’t get me wrong, that’s not something I do very often, but I was in one of those kind of rare reflective moods), I kind of felt like I was a vessel that had been put on a shelf. I thought about an encounter that the prophet Jeremiah had with God one day:
“The LORD gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Then the LORD gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.“ (Jeremiah 18:1-6, NLT).
Because God is the potter, and we are the clay vessels that he had formed and shaped for His purposes, He has the right to do with us what He wants to.
That’s what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 9:20-21: “Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? … Clay doesn’t talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, “Why did you shape me like this?” Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans?“ (The Message Bible).
Yes He does! And He has the right to do what He wants with me – whether it is to fashion me into a vase for holding flowers, or a pot for cooking beans. Whether it is to pastor a church in a little town on the prairies, or be the guidance counsellor for a group of high school students in a big city on the west coast.
And again, don’t get me wrong – I love my new job very much! I am so excited to be a part of what God is doing in and through Regent Christian Academy. But I realize that I had allowed a sense of my identity to come from what I did – pastoring – and not simply from who I was – a child of God, deeply loved by Him, accepted in the beloved, adopted into His family, and forgiven of all of my sins. THAT is who I really am!
And so, whether I am Pastor Chris, or Mr. Jordan (as the high school students now know me as), or simply Chris, or dad (to my four amazing kids), I. Am. Content. To. Be. A. Child. Of. God. Period.
As a post-script to this week’s reflections, this morning I got an email from my pastor, asking me if I was interested in speaking to the church this coming Sunday morning. When I shared that with Liza, she said to me, “Just a thought that maybe God is saying, “You are not on a shelf, and I’m not done with you!” Just saying…” Wisdom from my wife… Amen!
And God’s not finished with YOU either. Maybe you feel like you’re on a shelf, or in a valley, or some sort of dark storm, and you wonder where God is. May this quote, which I read during my devotions the other morning, encourage you as it did me:
“In times of dryness and desolation we must be patient, and wait with resignation for the return of comfort, putting our trust in the goodness of God. We must animate ourselves by the thought that God is always with us, that He only allows this trial for our greater good, and that we have not necessarily lost His grace because we have lost the taste and feeling of it.” (St. Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises).
Calvin & Hobbes (c) 2016 Bill Waterson.