It was a job I really wanted, at a church I had long admired from afar, with a pastor who was famous, in a part of the country that was beautiful, in a city near some of my extended family, with a high enough profile that if I got the job, I thought I’d get some bragging rights.
I had dreamed about what it would be like to have this job. And one Sunday evening, out of nowhere, I received an invitation to apply, directly from the pastor himself.
I could hear angels singing. I knew this was the answer to my prayers. In my mind, it was a done deal, less than an hour after hearing about the opening. The red carpet had been rolled out for my visit and I was sure I had landed the job of all jobs.
I visited a few weeks later and from the get-go, things didn’t go so well. A major storm descended on the area, throwing everything into chaos and nearly canceling services on Sunday. Didn’t this storm know that this was my weekend to shine?
The service ended up happening, and everything went really well. Until lunch with the pastor. I got the distinct impression that he knew fairly quickly that I wasn’t his guy, and the more I tried to impress him, the more stupid things I said.
They had already asked me to make a second visit, which I did several weeks later. But by then, the red carpet had been rolled up, the angel choirs were no longer singing, the lunch invitation was rescinded, and I found myself pulling out of the process before my plane even lifted off the runway. I couldn’t handle the prospect of being told I wasn’t good enough.
I was devastated, confused, and felt like I had missed God’s will.
Almost exactly a year later, another job opportunity presented itself. This was a job I didn’t particularly want, in an area of the country that didn’t excite me, at a place I had never even heard of before, with people who weren’t famous. But God clearly led me to apply. I didn’t have most of the qualifications they were looking for, but it never hurts to try, right?
The process played out over a few months, and lo and behold I receive an invitation to visit. Still wounded from my previous interview attempt, I went with trepidation, assuming I wouldn’t impress them either.
The visit was surprisingly sweet and invigorating. I found myself wanting this job, warming to the area of the country, enjoying the people, and wondering how in the world God could be doing this. I was offered the position, made a second visit with Catherine to scope out the area, and was one phone call away from accepting the job when God pulled the plug and made it clear that he was saying “no”. So I pulled out of the process and found myself, yet again, very confused.
“Let’s make 2014 a year of contentment” were my famous words to Catherine, after we had ridden these two wild potential-job rollercoasters, and experienced the emotional ups and downs that could drive any couple to a few dozen brinks. We were expecting our third child around Christmas 2013, and we resolved to just hunker down and not look at any potential jobs for a year.
That all came crashing down on my first day back at work after paternity leave in early 2014. My first day back in the office, it was clear to me that God was saying “you’re done here”.
That night, kneeling on our living room floor, I begged God to make his path clear. In one of my most honest prayers ever, I pleaded with him to finally show us what door to walk through and to end our waiting game.
The very next day I saw the posting for Director of Worship and Arts at Truro Church in Fairfax, VA. The same church were Catherine and I had met, where our fathers had been associate pastors, where my family had some considerable baggage, where I had led worship during High School, and where I had literally NEVER thought about serving as a worship pastor.
But when I saw that post – I had two thoughts instantly: First, “oh no” (because I knew some of the challenges, and the weight of the responsibilities that would await me there). Secondly, “this is it, isn’t it, God?”
Yes, it was.
In the first case (when I thought I knew what God was doing), God stripped me of my pride and spared me from stepping into an environment for which I wasn’t prepared.
In the second case (when I had no clue what God was doing), God re-invigorated me and gave me a nearly-complete dry run of how to explore and discern a ministry opportunity.
And in the final case (when God brought me and my family back to Truro), God showed me that he had been preparing me for this role all along, keeping me totally in the dark about it, and like a good Father, opening the door when it was time. When it was his time.
God uses ministry misses to prepare you for ministry hits. Like Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy, he might even have to wound you a little bit in order to make you run faster. You won’t have any idea what he’s up to. You’ll be confused. Maybe even devastated. But if all you experience is success after success, promotion after promotion, and red carpets and angelic choirs and famous pastors, then you are literally living in place that’s called La La Land.
Embrace a full-hearted trust in a good God, a loving Father, and a sovereign King, who will put you exactly where he wants you, and will oftentimes lead you on several roller coasters in order to grow you up and strengthen your gifts before you land.