Alone . . .what I felt the most.

For about five years leading up to my walking away from professional ministry and making major life changes, I lived with a constant and  growing notion. It never went away but only intensified. I want to write about it. It is painful to look back and remember. There are things that I am not proud of that were a direct result of this perception that I lived with.

At some point during this time period I was diagnosed with a form of depression.

Life really didn’t change. I didn’t know where to go for help. I tried to preach my way out of it, pray my way out of it and even work my way out of it. Eventually I just imploded and found myself reduced to nothingness. My life changed completely.  The uninformed would just say I was weak and a failure. The unkind would just say I should have been stronger and shouldn’t have let so many people down. Others wouldn’t say anything they just drifted away in silence.

aloneSometime early on in the year my life changed forever I doodled on a tablet on my desk at the church office. It was a reminder. It was an expression. It was a pathetic and unfair cry for help because I am not sure who I thought would see it and respond.

I have not been able to throw this scrap of paper away. It was the cry of my heart. It is what I felt in so many areas of my life daily. Ultimately it is what led me to find an unintentional way out. I am not suggesting that this is an excuse for anything I did or didn’t do but it is what I believed and what I felt in my soul. Even in this drawing I was trying to hold on to words from the bible and ironically I have found this promise to be true but I never dreamed it would be on the other side of grace.

I wish I could tell my whole story but I will not for the sake of others. I will say some things because they need to be said. Remember this blog is to help those who come behind me and find themselves in a similar place. Maybe you will read this before and take steps to get healthy or find help.

So here it goes . . . I truly believed I was alone.  Some may wonder how you could be the pastor of a great church that never quit growing and yet “mess up.” I have a family heritage that some might look at and wonder, “how could he mess that up?” How could I have let those closest to me (family) down in such a disappointing and hurtful way?

Over the course of a few years I came to believe that church denomination wise I was alone. Churches like ours were not celebrated in the Church of the Nazarene, at least not by most leaders or generational Nazarenes, but were looked on as a threat to the purity of the denomination. In the first seven years I was at this wonderful church not once did I ever hear from the district superintendent to even inquire what was going on. We were growing in a pretty amazing way but not once was this questioned or inquired about. This leader was a friend and I am not throwing him “under the bus,” but it is a fact that I felt alone. When he retired the new leader that replaced him came to visit and review the ministry and in one evening criticized and made accusations about our church that were absurd to say the least. No research was done. No effort made to understand who we were just a heavy handed put down of the vision of our church. This probably stung me more then I allowed myself to admit.  Ironically a general church leader had just visited and conduced an official survey a few months before and he at least celebrated what he saw.   Since finding myself outside of professional ministry not one effort has been made to reach out from district leadership and that is further proof that the “aloneness” I felt may have not been entirely made up.

I felt alone because due to the conservative way my parents chose to live out their faith there was no way they could come and visit the church that I was leading. The music and the style of service would have been shocking to them and it was too much consequently they never came once in the entire 13 years to share in that ministry. During those thirteen years my mother and father both passed away and the aloneness continued. . .

I felt alone as a leader. To be honest all leaders may feel this which is why someone said, “it is lonely at the top.” As we added staff to the ministry I wished and hoped that the aloneness would go away but in fact it only added to my aloneness. Part of that was generational. I am  sure that the way I viewed church and leadership was tough for them to swallow at times. I am sure they wished they could push back more but in my mind I had given them pretty free creative license as leaders. I remember what it was like to be a leader in my thirties and early forties. I  had all the answers or so I thought. I judged those around me who were leading and older then me. This knowledge also pushed me to feel very much alone. Not blaming just saying what I was feeling.

Everywhere I looked in my life I became convinced that I was alone. At somealone 2.jpg point, I even wondered why God wasn’t saving me from myself. Of course this is unfair to think of God since I believe in free will.  I made choices. I tried to handle it my own way.

Today I can say that I have found God to be more real then I ever knew Him to be. Maybe I should say that I have found out more about Him then I ever knew before.

Feeling alone, real or perceived, is a horrible feeling and one that I never hope to feel again. I am not alone. I feel loved everyday by God and others. I am told daily that I am loved. I am convinced I am not a loser or a problem. Daily I receive affirmation that I am worthy and should be allowed to live and breathe. There were times I wondered about that.

Again please remember if you read this that the majority of this blog is to help those that come behind me. What I have found out writing this blog over the last year is that many others have experienced similar feelings and responses and they have expressed their appreciation for the writings so I continue to write. Life is not perfect. Families are not perfect. Churches are not perfect. We are all flawed to one degree or another even those of us that are people of faith. Hurting people hurt others.  I lived my life hoping to never hurt anyone. I failed. I own it and yet I can’t fix it.

Daily I strive to get closer to God. Daily I try to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. Daily I try to love and accept love from others. Daily I am loved. I am not alone. 1434 Always

 

 

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26 thoughts on “Alone . . .what I felt the most.

  1. Good Stuff… We all have found ourselves at Walden Pond at times. In fact… I may be there now as well. You use that word “perfect” Boy I hate that word. Who decides perfection? Having grown up in the Pilgrim Holiness influence and the 3CU… I am worn out with others ideas of perfection as it relates to my walk with God. While others may point out the “wrongs” in me… I am enjoying the warmth of God’s acceptance and presence.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing Wes. Unfortunately we all feel these alone times even when we are surrounded with others. This should help us reach out to others more.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wes, thank you for sharing. Are you sure you were not living out my life? While I was pastoring, a nondenominational church, there were so many lonely days. I very seldom received any mail or information from the denomination through which I held my credentials, unless it was for asking for money. My district superintendent very seldom contacted me as well as many of the denominational leaders. The only time in which I heard the most, was when the church thought about joining the denomination. After the church voted against it, the silence came again.

    The church was growing and reaching out to the community. Most of my “friends” were outside of the church body. It brought great pain to hear of people of the church gathering together, but I and my wife were seldom if ever included. Much can be said about these 8 years there, but the time is not right.

    Now that I am out of the pastorate, due to major health issues (physical and mental) I have not yet heard from almost 100% of the leaders of the denomination for the two years. Only time, would be a passing comment as I walked into a rally, camp meeting, or required training session. Loneliness is a major cause of the high number of pastors leaving the professional ministry. Loneliness drives the mind in to thinking about things and issues which will drive the person into the early stages of depression and if not treated, on to major depression.

    I wish I had the guts to write how I feel, as you have here. Thank you for the support you give through your openness of your writings. Maybe some day I too, will be able to open up.

    Only and Always Because of Christ,
    Scott Polley

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You write my story, Wes. I feel like an outcast. My story almost ended with a shotgun in my mouth, but the thing jambed. I heard a voice saying dont do it. I then went to the hospital and was diagnosed with a sever depressive incident.a week in the psyc ward and follow up counseling saved me.

    Church leadership told my congregation not to contact me, and I was thrown out with the trash.

    It has been 8 years, and I don’t fit anywhere anymore. However, it took me losing my religion as a 3rd generation, to find grace. Vocationally, I am in the “things world” instead of the “people world,” as computer forensics specialist. Instead of the crowds energizing me, peace and working my mind and hands are what sustain me.
    Going to church is tough when I believe different than the group I attend with.
    My life imploded as well, but cool things…. small things… positive things have happened as well.

    Thank you for your kindness to me. Before and after……..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wes, as you so often have, you have put into words the feelings of many. I remember some of our conversations from these past few years. I wish I had pushed deeper to hear your pain more clearly. I wish I had taken time to come see you when I lived closer. I understand your pain. In the largest church I ever pastored, I was the most alone. Yet, now that I have retired, I hear from very few fellow Pastor’s. It’s interesting that so often we Pastor’s say we’re a family, yet we don’t really put it into practice. Good words my friend. May many read them and be renewed in their faith in the ever present God of the ages.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wes, you may remember me for my time on your district and at least a portion of the last few chapters of my life. So sorry for the pain you’ve went through. Anger, bitterness, and depression circle round into my heart like a persistent storm system in the nearly 5 years since I was “broken”. I’ve moved on to a stronger district with more solid support from leadership and I am healing every day. God bless you as you heal and move forward. If it’s any consolation, God really used you to speak into my life when we were together.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wes, how I wish I could have been there for you. As you know, I was dealing with my own monsters at the time, and I had no energy to reach out. Your story is my story, and I thank you for sharing it, dear friend. I’d love to get together with you again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wes, I was a student in one of your classes through MVNU. I have listened to many of your sermons and thought to myself, “I want to be a preacher of the word like Wes, I want to be able to shepherd the flock like Wes.” You had a major influence on me in a very short time. You were so insightful and I knew you were different than many, and I liked that about you. The funny thing for me in reading this is that I am more like you than I even knew. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I know now that I am not alone. God bless you

      Liked by 1 person

  8. #GUIDANCE – I am a illumined express of God, filled with divine love and wisdom. I am guided and directed in right ways. #INNER PEACE – God has given you a spirit of love, serenity, joy, and contentment. All is well with you, and you are at peace. #SUCCESS – I am a radiant, all wise, all-loving, triumphant child of God. Infinite wisdom guides me, divine love prospers me, and I am successful in all I do. Much Love Wes.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks Wes for sharing your story. I was there when you came to Newark but regret I didn’t meet with you.
    I ,too, was going through my own issues with no one reaching out to me. It took me nearly 40 years to admit
    I was leading a double life. Thank God for His Grace for
    me. Dave.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Let me just say Wes, I have felt alone as well in this so called District. There were many times that I felt if I would say anything that I would be put on the naughty list so to speak. I was just released from my most recent church because of two families that felt that Naz Safe policy should not include their children and I can go on. There are so many things that have hurt my family in just six years of full time ministry since we left Grove City in 2010. Some would say it goes with ministry but I do not believe that to be true. I am thankful that you are closer to God than ever before and please know that we are hanging on knowing that Jesus has something great for us down the road. Blessings to you my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Wes, thank you for sharing this with all of us. I feel closer to you now more than ever, I love you brother and I’m so thanksful that you’re part of my families lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Wes, thanks for the works of grace, Life is so much of what we did not expect it to be. We were raised around the church and colleges and were expected to be the best of examples and expected to live as we were told to live.Our parents belonged to their church or their college and we felt alone much of the time when we were young. Sorry I never really met you. My parents were good friends with your parents many years ago and I had left GBS by the time you came there. I have felt your pain and even though I never stayed with the Holiness group I felt their unkindness and like I was an outcast.. Thankfully God did not forsake me and I know he will always be there and Love me and you. I found that he gave us the Holy Spirit to be our comfort and friend in all we do. He will comfort in our times of feeling alone. God bless you my friend in faith. Jim

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wes, I read your words and then read them again. In the past fifty two years of ministry, I have skirted close to what you described more than once. My ministry, my family and my church all came rushing through my mind as I read your words. Although I have been privileged to serve in the highest office of our denomination, yet I know the feeling of never quite being “one of the boys”. At first I suffered with that, but eventually came to enjoy it. Your father and I were close friends and preached together in many camp meetings. He was very proud of you. I could hear the admiration in his voice each time he spoke of you, and that was quite often.

    I also have sons who minister successfully in churches that do not sing “my” style, and stretch me in other ways as well. However, I love them and attend their churches whenever I am not away in revival meetings. Thank you for helping me see more clearly how important this is to both myself and them.

    Keep your faith in the omnipotent, omnipresent loving God of your father and mother. God has a plan for you!
    James Keaton, Sr

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hi Wes, I appreciate your writings. I had no idea but wanted to say how much I enjoyed your friendship and your visits when you were in Circleville. You are in my prayers.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi Wes,
    I loved the honesty and authenticity with which you told your story. On so many levels your blog touched me because that is where I have lived for much of my life. I came to be a pastor late in life and at this point I have not been chewed up and spit out by ministry. The church I serve is very small and so far amazing to work with. However, I have felt alone and ravaged by life. At 33 I went through a divorce and that was lonely. I took two years off from church and religion (by religion I mean church culture). I tell people that I lost religion and found relationship with Jesus. As a new Christian I was not told how important relationship with Jesus is in order to know God.
    About 6 years ago I was at a place in my life that I hated life, felt very alone, unfulfilled, disappointed and angry. I needed something more in life. I was invited to a men’s camp ran by a men’s ministry called Warrior at Heart Ministry. Wow, it was life transforming, it was a safe place to tell my story and guess what those guys’s loved me. I told it all secrets, disappointments, regret all of it. The Holy Spirit visited me that weekend and showed me things in my childhood that was causing much of my anger. That weekend healing and freedom came to me like I never knew possible. I now have a band of brothers that I can tell anything to and the love me still. They encourage me, challenge me, and pray with me. It has been a lifesaver for me. I think it is in James where it tells us that if we confess our sins one to another we will be healed. I have a place to confess and it has brought me healing because it is safe. If you would be interested here is the ministries website: http://www.waheart.com. We have people from all over the United States come. If you have any questions feel free to contact me. I feel like we need to tell our stories all of it – it brings healing to our soul.

    Liked by 1 person

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