What Happened When My Religious World Crumbled

July 16, 2012 — 24 Comments

Confessions - Week 2
This is part 2: You can read the story from the beginning here.
Three years ago my religious world, with all its shaky foundations, came crumbling down. It was my my wife who saved me. In the midst of the mess, Kimberly, Kimmy to me, helped me understand something about Jesus I never knew, it was probably the first time I let her. You see, up till that point in our marriage, I had stormed ahead as the valiant leader, the great spiritual guru of the family, believing I was the one God trusted. I was the one with the mantle, a heavenly seal upon my life, called to obtain greatness. And who was she? She was there to support my cause, an extra pair of shoulders to heap my burdens upon when I was too busy to deal with them myself.

Yes, you probably just figured it out – I was a complete moron. It’s true, I was blind to my own foolishness, and, as it turns out, blind to my wife’s wisdom, for she clearly knew God far more than I ever gave her credit for. While I had spent my time trying to figure out God’s battle plan, she had spent hers understanding God’s heart. Thank goodness she did, it was the only thing powerful enough to bring me back from ruin. I still remember our conversation. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how her words floated into my heart as light as feather, and broke the yoke of false beliefs with all the strength of heaven.

I had left my pastoral position five months earlier and since that time, to my great frustration, nothing had turned out like I had assumed it should. We hadn’t spoken about my real feeling regarding the situation since my dismissal. I had spend months locked away in my study trying desperately to create a new plan, to find a way forward, but it was all to no avail. I started to give up, to the point where I did little more than function. Kimmy tried to help, but I was keeping her at a distance, until I was too weak to do even that. It was late one evening and I was curled up on the couch. Lost. Broken. Unable to make sense of anything. She walked over and sat next to me and began slowly stroking my hair, and, after an eternity of silence, spoke in her soft, fragile voice.

“Joel, don’t let yourself drown in pity and don’t for a second believe God has left you. He hasn’t. He never will. Your religious dreams may have been burned up, but your identity is not lost. You have an identity far greater than the man with the big church vision. That’s not who you are. That’s never been who you are.”

I closed my eyes, struggling to even talk. I wanted to tell her to take her words back. I wanted to declare that that was my identity. That I was someone important, that I had a vision to prove it. But I was weak, and also caught off guard at her words, for we never really talked about spiritual matters. I was always ‘strong enough’ to deal with these kind of things alone. Yes, strong enough to lock everyone out. Strong enough to live guided by my vision instead of my heart. Strong? What a joke. No, I was always weak, but now, for the first time, I realised it. I couldn’t hide behind my alpha male talents any longer. I had nothing.

There really is something divine about weakness. It has a power I had never given it credit for. I always thought of it as a curse, but it was the only reason I opened up to my wife. It was only through weakness I finally realised just how blessed I am. It was my weakness that allowed God’s grace to reveal itself. I guess that’s one of the reasons I’m no longer disappointed or embarrassed about my weaknesses and limitation, and why I don’t judge anyone else for having them either. But none of that really made sense to me at the time, my attention was on her words ringing in my ears about my identity. I remember closing my eyes, thinking about what she said, to weak to do anything but be honest.

“Who am I without my vision?” I asked her, not waiting for an answer before throwing another question into the air.

“What will people think of me now? What value do I have in God’s plan now? I’m useless.”

That was all I could muster, and silence fell between us once more. My words depressed me, but they did more to her – they hurt her. They didn’t seem that potent to me, so why did they hurt her? I realise now it was because she knew just how wrong I was. Looking out the window, gazing up at the stars, she spoke once more, with more determination in her speech.

“You know, you don’t understand how God views you, that’s your real problem. You’re wrong if you think you’re useless to God now. You’re more than you believe, so much more,” There was a pause – and then she dropped the bombshell: “You need to stop believing that filthy lie! You’re not just a pawn in his game like you think.”

My heart stopped. How did she know? My secret I’d never so much as whispered to a living soul, but somehow she knew, and I realised in that moment that she’d always known. She had always seen the lie I was believing, I was the blind one. I’d never allowed her voice to find a place of value in my spiritual life and only now, in my weakness, could she help me see the heart of God.

My secret was simple: I believed God considered me expendable. I believed I was a pawn, being maneuvered to gain ground for him; a soldier whose worth was in my strength to fight, and to rally others to fight. I viewed my faith through the eyes of a soldier, and so, like any soldier at war, I hardened my heart in order to deal with the tragedy such a mindset creates.

Expendable. That’s why I felt useless, because I had failed in my mission. That was what I believed. That was the lie my wife saved me from. She revealed to me the true motivation of God is love. That I was loved as a son, not employed as a soldier. Her words may seem simple, but they were enough to reach into the depths of my soul and take the hand of my inner child, suppressed for so long, and draw him back to the surface of faith. It was enough to soften my heart once more.

These were her exact words, etched forever in my mind. I even remember the smell of her breath and the comfort of her touch as she spoke:

“I want to tell you the truth and I want you to allow these words to sink into your heart. The truth is you’re loved more than anyone could ever articulate. More than your best friend could ever understand. More than I, the very closest person to your heart, could ever replicate. You see darling, the One who loves you is the source of all life. You’re more valuable to God than all the stars in the sky; without you it’s as if they don’t shine. Without you, everything loses its value. But he’s got you. He’s holding you in the palm of his hand, like a pearl worth more than all he owns, he’s holds you tightly. You’re the reason he makes the world shine with warmth. You’re the one he died for; you’re the one he’d do it all again for. As hard as it is to believe, you’re his beloved child; you’re the one who motivates God to win – and he will win. For you, for me – for all of us. Don’t give up, keep walking, Love will find a way.”

Her words caused me to burst into tears, the reality of them so gentle and yet so powerful. I knew they weren’t just something said to encourage me. She believed every one of them. They were powerful because they were the truth. This was the God she belonged to, the God I belonged to, and in that moment I surrendered. I gave up being a soldier for God, and allowed myself to be a son.

That was the day heaven danced for me.

(Keep reading here.)New updates to the story will be posted each Monday. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or on the story’s facebook page. You can read the story from the beginning here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/maddyeline Maddy Floss

    This is so awesome :D thank you for sharing :DD and praise Jesus for the prudent wives!!

  • Debra

    This is absolutely beautiful and beautifully said. This short story has touched my heart in more ways than a 60 minute sermon has. Thank you for sharing this TRUTH. It’s simply stated, yet speaks deeply to our very core. I will cherish this and I will share for we all need to know we are more than we think – His child.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lindalee1955 Linda Lauritzen

    So good … there are times when I feel like I’m reading my own story … other than the ‘pastor’ part :) I was so broken by ‘it not working’ like I’d been taught … and learned so well. Lately I’ve realized there may be even more I’d learn so well … that is wrong. It’s a journey. I will be waiting for Mondays!

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  • Sandra

    That is wonderful Mick. Thank God for your brokeness and your beautiful wife and that you were finally able to hear her and receive what she had to say.
    The question that brought me into the most powerful experience I ever had was one day when I said ‘Do you love me?’ and His answer turned my life around. Letting the world know we are loved is so important. Knowing it ourselves is even more important I think.
    And 3 years is a very small amount of time.
    I believe God is calling more and more people to walk in intimacy with Him outside the busyness and distraction of the doing. I think He wants people who will just ‘be’ with Him and let Him do whatever, whenever and do the hard yards of waiting on Him.
    I also fully identify with the battle with believing in our significance when we have no outward signs of it at all. We see the others charge on while we wait in the eddies of His will waiting for His current to catch us and plunge us forward again.
    It’s a sacred place but also a very tough place.
    However, we can see so much recently of what God has achieved in us through all this set-apartness and how our roots have gone down into deep deep soil and one day, who knows, we may even see the fruit of all the waiting.
    Already we are seeing changes happening around us without words being spoken.
    Finding your site has been such a blessing to us, you have no idea what it means to us after waiting for so many decades thinking we were completely alone, except for God of course.

  • http://Facebook Marla

    Your story fills my heart with joy. Tears just rolled down my cheeks as I read. For once to know just how loving our Father is. And how religion kept you in that bondage. But finally set free from the lie by your wife’s soft spoken words. So very happy for you!

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  • Abby

    Hey, I appreciate your honesty here and it is beautifully written. It’s a story with lots of sadness but also of hope and ultimate joy in knowing who we are in Christ.

    Our lives crossed paths for a few months in 2005/6 when you were at Bible college and I was a backpacker. What I’m reading here and in your other blogs is a very different Mick to who I knew back then! Having inevitably lost contact, I’m not aware of what happened with your pastoral role but it sounds as though God is really meeting you where you are at now. Your raw honesty is the key to how God is using you in this type of communicative ministry.

    I am trying to think if I met your wife. I did get to know a German lady also at the Bible college, with a background in nursing….and I have a vague memory of you dating her (but I may be completely wrong)! It was a slightly crazy year for me and I met so many people, most of whom I’m no longer in touch with, bar a few.

    Blessings, Abby.

    • Mick

      Hi Abby, nice to hear from you again. Glad you’re enjoying my writing and comics etc. Hey, just in case you missed it, this post, and every post on Mondays, is a online novel I’m writing. So, it’s fiction (not me, I wasn’t actually ever a pastor) but it certainly has elements of my own journey in it. Thanks again for sharing. Have a great week.

      • http://www.7lights.com Sandra

        I was somewhat confused about the name Joel in the story. Now I get it! I thought you had been a pastor as well, just shows how I need to pay more attention when I read! Your writing is so inspired. Problem is now I don’t know what is really you and what you are going through and what is the novel.
        Whatever, it’s speaking the truth and that’s what matters.

        • Mick

          Sandra, everything I write on my blog is me except this story. I decided to write a fiction story about this topic as it allows me the creative license to present the message as best I can, taking inspiration not only from my own journey and musing about it, but also from others who have shared their stories with me.

          • Mick

            yeah, I was never a paid pastor, but I worked longer hours then most of them for years in ‘ministry’ ;-) so I understand the mindset quite well.

          • Sandra

            Thanks Mick. I understand it now!

      • Abby

        Haha, lol trust me to get this wrong! lol. I just skim read it coz I’m in the middle of my dissertation at the mo (so a bit distracted) and obviously missed this major point………lol….I look forward to reading it now, enlightened to the fact it’s a blog of FICTION! Hehe! Take care, Abby. x

  • Kathy

    I will never forget the day that I sat in my car in the church parking lot, dreading to go inside to staff prayer. Our administrative pastor had already informed me that questioning his decisions was rebellion toward God (as the sin of witchcraft, you know). He had asked for my resignation as minister of children then offered to re-hire me when I was willing to sign a document indicating that I was in agreement with his policies and decisions (even the ones that bordered on illegal) . I knew God was speaking to my heart, “What would you do today if you knew how much I really love you and that I will take care of you?” My answer was, “I would leave the ministry, find a new career, and just live for you, Lord.” That was the week I walked away. It cost me some friends, some family, and a very very nice salary, but it opened up a whole new world of freedom outside of religion’s rules.

    • Jacob

      Good on you Kathy. Your story sounds terrible and almost like a fable but I believe it for I’ve seen it and been there.

    • http://www.7lights.com Sandra

      Well done Kathy! The things we put up with until we see the light! I’m so glad you saw the light and found your freedom. Bless you.

  • Jacob

    Great stuff! I’ve been through something similar but maybe less intense. The source of this way of thinking is detestable and has it’s origins in Old Covenant concepts which are rooted in “Law”. These days we substitute ‘law’ with ‘obligations’. Once we’re hooked on ‘obligations’ and ‘commitment’ then the system can manipulate us and its leverage becomes ‘guilt’. Maybe I’m digging deep here but as an analytical personality I like to dissect what led to this misconception/deception, because it surely ain’t from God and we’ve been given all we need to be free i.e. Christ himself.

    Thank God that He foreknew our dilemma and gave Paul such a powerful message regarding our in-Christ freedom. Yet we chose bondage. At best the Church finds itself in an illegitimate growth process for if we adhered to Pauls warnings and encouragement we as the true Church should not have to pass through this process of religious liberation. Christs work is complete therefor we need not ‘grow’ anywhere, though our minds need renewing.

    It was Warren Litzman who wrote regarding ‘ministry’:” The method should never supersede the message.” And after all, we don’t have a message until we realize we have a relationship with a loving Father, which then speaks for itself.

    Thanks Mick!!

    • http://www.7lights.com Sandra

      Jacob, my husband and I often muse about whether a person can go straight to Grace and bypass the Law altogether. The Bible does say that the Law is our teacher (ie. it teaches us we cannot keep the Law!) I’d certainly like to think so!

      • Mick

        I think what Paul meant about the Law being like a school master was in relation to Israel. God called them to be his people by grace, but the time for the Spirit to be given had not yet arrived, so they were naturally disobedient. The law however kept them captive to a relationship with God, even through the relationship wasn’t functioning well. But then once Jesus came they were released from a prision-like relationship with God and liberated into a free/son-like relationship. This was for the benefit of the whole world, both Jew and Gentile. As gentiles, whether a believer or not, we have never, were never, and actually can not ever be captive to the Old Covenant Law because God never gave us access to enter that Covenant. What happens to gentiles is more about coming under a law mindset, but they can’t come under the Law itself – at least not as far as God is concerned. (we can manage to convince our own minds of anything though, which is why I guess so many gentile believers actually believe they are under the Old Covenant law.) Just my two cents on it all.

      • Jacob

        Hi Sandra,
        I’ve just written a whole dialogue of discussion then deleted it, suffice to say the following: (and this is speaking for myself only) My relationship with Father supersedes the argument of salvation and right-and-wrong thinking. It surpasses the past and it’s requirements that were prevalent to that specific dispensation. I cannot go through a growth process which is not intended for me(though I did, and purely because of circumstances invoked on me by my own stupidity and my parents own ignorance). That would be to deny the Grace of God.

        My argument above was to illustrate that I’ve been given all I need to live in liberty through Christ, and in retrospect I went through a period of illegitimate growth to liberate me from a system which according to me is trying to substitute Christ in MY life. Paul lived way before my time and gave me all I need to understand the difference, but I chose to ignore it. Well, that’s MY LIFE, it might not be the same for the next guy.

  • http://mybroom.wordpress.com mybroom

    Hi Mick, love your work, and I get your sentiments. cheers, Graeme

    • Mick

      thanks mate :-)

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