Pain, Pain Go Away

It is surprising what a motivating factor the pain in our lives is. Makes sense when you are talking about touching a hot stove burner. There’s motivation. But it is emotionally surprising – at least to me. Anyone reading this has probably heard the proverb (not biblical) “change happens when the pain of changing is less than the pain of staying the same.” Seems just about every pastor can throw that one out there, me included.

In my folly (what one friend has described as going postal), I had convinced myself this would be true in my own life. That the pain of having an affair would be less than the pain of staying in a dysfunctional marriage (a marriage, by the way, that was my responsibility). Sure seemed like that could be true on the front end, but my daughter, ministry and wife would tell you a different story.

If you are reading this and are will to listen, here is an urgent word of caution: don’t make any decisions on your own while you are hurting; pain will make you do stupid, ridiculous, irrational things that will be incomprehensible to your mind when the hurt is over.

Here is what I lost sight of, and I think I’ve regained proper perspective; My ‘pain’ now comes from wanting to be like Christ. Despite my circumstances, this should have been my sole vantage point all along. God has saved me and clothed me with righteousness. Knowing that Christ died so God the Father would view me that way should grieve me. I am the worst. Paul say he was chief among sinners, but I think I’d give him a good run for his money (there you go, I’m willing to place a bet with Paul, sinner!). Being a sinner who is, nonetheless, saved hurts.

Hurts so good, as John (Cougar?) Mellencamp would say, because that pain is driving me to strive for Christlikeness. Staying the same before God hurts worse than staying the same, at least it should when you measure the cost to Him. It’s working out my salvation. I’m a slow learner, but I think I’ve caught on to this.

The pain I should feel most in my life should not come from my worldly circumstances, but from not being like Christ in front of a hold God.

That, and that reason alone, is how I will be able to be a better disciple, better husband, better father, better friend, and even a better pastor – if given the opportunity.

Right now I am an instructor of mathematics at a university. (A new colleague at church recently said, when he learned of my background, “Oh, so you’re really smart then.” Yes, I fake it well.) Even worse than being called to something by God and not yet getting there, is having done the thing God specifically created you to do and then going backwards. It’s like having been in St. Lucia one day, then finding yourself in Newark, New Jersey the next. Total letdown.

This past weekend, I was talking with a friend about calling, telling her that, whether she believed it or not, my calling form God had not dissipated – in fact it was more intense now than ever. She responded that we are all sinful, and that sin doesn’t change our calling. My addition to that statement would be only that a lack of repentance makes our calling ineffectual.

I’ve been told by several people, at various moments in this process, that I’m still a pastor. Despite a vivid ‘second calling’ right after my Miracle, it’s only in the last few months that I’ve dared to believe it. It comes from a new understanding through experience of the depths of God’s love and grace.

With God all things are possible. A fallen pastor restored is not out of the question. David was restored. Peter was too. And like them, I don’t want to ever lose the pain that drives me toward Christ.

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