How To Move Forward When Life Goes Sideways (Part 1)

Early in our marriage, Kathy and I moved to British Columbia where I completed an undergraduate degree. Leaving family and friends to live in a new province, go to a new school and start a new chapter was a huge decision.

But it didn’t take long for us to love the west coast and believe we’d likely stay there long term. Kathy started a new job, we attended a new church, made new friends and I looked for ministry opportunities while anticipating graduate studies after college.

But during the year I received a call from my home church back in Ontario and they asked if I would consider joining the staff.

Kathy and I took time to pray about it and talk with trusted advisors as we contemplated what to do. Though we loved BC and had plans to stay, we decided to go back to Ontario.

So a year after arriving in BC we packed up again and moved back to Ontario. We drove across Canada and actually arrived in town on a Sunday evening, just before the church service started (yes, that’s how long ago this was…the church had evening services).

We were warmly greeted but something didn’t seem quite right. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it didn’t take long to discover something was wrong. After the service, it was made clear to me that the church had made the decision not to hire me after all.

Kathy was in tears, I was in shock and we really didn’t know what was happening. We went to my parents place while we soaked in the news. The car was still packed and Kathy suggested that we jump back in it and drive back to BC. My head was spinning as I tried to understand the immediate implications…we had no jobs, no home and most of our belongings were still on a truck somewhere north of the Great Lakes.

My parents offered to let us stay with them while we tried to sort things out.

A couple days later I met with the pastor who was to be my colleague to hopefully get some insight into why things had played out the way they did.

But truthfully I went away from that meeting with no better understanding. The best I can discern is that it was a financial decision but to this day I don’t know for sure…no one ever clarified it.

This was without a doubt one of the most difficult situations I had ever dealt with. We felt mislead, mistreated and it was a struggle to deal with it appropriately…whatever that meant.

It’s amazing what goes through your head when you feel like you have no where to turn and you feel completely lost with no sense of what to do. Maybe you’ve been there? Maybe you’re there right now?

In my darkest moments I had thoughts of revenge…I wanted answers…and I wanted someone to answer for turning my life upside down. I was also questioning God and wondering if I should walk away from ministry altogether.

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

Perhaps you’ve been in that place where there seems to be absolutely no good choice…no obvious direction…just utter lostness. This is where we were…so this is what we did.

We slowed down

Instead of reacting to the situation we did our best  to slow down, press the pause button and regroup. We didn’t make any significant decisions other than to remain as calm as possible. This didn’t happen overnight though, trust me. It was a battle.

We prayed

This was not as easy as you might think. I was hurt and angry with church leaders and with God.  I asked questions like, “What is going on? Why is this happening? and What are you doing?” Answers didn’t come right away either. God and I were having some pretty awkward conversations.

We did the next right thing

There were so many things we didn’t know or understand. We weren’t sure what to do, so we did the next logical thing. We found jobs. I worked that summer moving office furniture and Kathy got back into retails sales. We did what we needed to do even when we didn’t know what was coming next.

We forgave

Before you start thinking  “Man, this guy is so holy and spiritual”, keep in mind I didn’t want to do this either. This was extremely difficult for me. Forgiveness is a decision and a process and it’s optional. But anger and resentment would have eaten me up and destroyed any chance of moving beyond this otherwise. I knew I had to forgive for my own sake, for the sake of our marriage and because it was the right thing to do. But who was I to forgive? The pastor? The leadership team? The guy at the end of the pew who couldn’t look me in the eye? You can’t offer forgiveness to someone who doesn’t ask for it, but you can still forgive. I had to choose to release any resentment I was holding onto in order to move forward.

We accepted a new normal

Whatever we thought life was going to be like after moving back to Ontario, well, that was gone. A new normal was emerging as we continued to try to make wise decisions one day at a time. The future we had pictured while driving across Canada was changing right before our eyes. We could either be discouraged and give up or embrace a new direction.

We looked at the big picture

When we first learned of the turn of events, I immediately began to think about the long-term implications. Had I been on the wrong path all along? Had I become self-delusional to think I was going into ministry? Was God trying to tell me something I wasn’t ready to hear? Had I missed my calling? Should I go back to plumbing?

We took time to consider what God wanted to do in our lives and through our lives. Counselling and pastoral ministry was where I had been headed and I came to the conclusion that those things hadn’t changed. God was still leading us even when it didn’t feel like it.

We stayed

This was our home church…we got married there just 3 years before. And while most people thought we would cut our losses and leave, we decided to stay.

  • we didn’t go back to BC, we stayed where we were.
  • we attended weekend services.
  • we taught Sunday School
  • we lead a small group of young married couples (before small groups were small groups)
  • we just got involved like we would have in any other church

But it was like a Charles Dickens novel…”it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. The internal tension didn’t just disappear after a few weeks, but we did stay at that church for the next 8 years.

That Fall I began full-time studies at a Seminary in Toronto which turned out to be 3 years of the best educational experience I had ever had.

Like I said, it was one of the most difficult experiences of my life; Kathy’s too. But I’m grateful for how things played out. I wouldn’t want to go through that again, but I’m grateful for the result.

Next week I’m going to share another lesson learned through this difficult experience.

Feeling stuck? Not sure what to do next? Your life not where you want it to be?

Life coaching can help. Contact me to arrange a free 45-minute discovery call. Lets talk.

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