I have come to be suspicious of invitations to lunch, especially from authority figures. One in particular has haunted me for years:
The Scene: A Chinese restaurant in a town not far from my home.
Him: The Board of Elders has reviewed your resume’.
ME: (My heart flips, then starts racing. I had applied for a pastoral position at this church, but had no idea that this lunch was to discuss my application.)
Him: We wanted to thank you for submitting your resume’. (He’s talking to me while pulling out his DayTimer, flipping to a certain page. It seems obvious he has written down his remarks to me.)
ME: (I stare across the table at him, at his DayTimer, then back up to him. I begin to have a bad feeling. I feel my face start to flush.)
ME: (I feel my stomach turn; I feel tears start to bubble up in the bottoms of my eyelids.)
Him: The Board of Elders also believes that because you do not attend special services at (church name) and because you rarely come to special events at (church name), we believe you are not personable enough to be a pastor.
ME: (I feel like someone has just publicly slapped me in my face. I cannot look at him. I can’t find any place to let my eyes rest. I want to run home to my dad, and hold onto him until the hurting stopped, but realize he’s not there, having died just a few weeks earlier.)
Him: (Speaking words, cannot hear him; seeing his lips move but cannot understand his words. Something about closing in prayer. I bow my head but I only hear the word “Amen.”)
ME: (I raise my head. Get up to leave with him. I’m numb. I can’t even remember paying for lunch.)
I walked back to my car, tears burning in my eyes. I got in my car and begin the drive home. I never felt more alone in all my life. Tears fell from my eyes like huge rain drops. The only thought in my mind is one word: FAILURE.
The announcement couldn't have been more horribly timed. Dad's death from cancer was still fresh on my heart. I had been heavily involved in various ministries at the church: choir, solos, special projects for the church leadership/pastors, teaching in the Sunday School as well as a Moody Adult elective on Wednesday evenings. Yet because I was "absent" from "special" meetings, I was deemed "inexperienced" and "unpersonable". I was crushed. I felt like the fat kid on the playground wanting so much to join the other guys playing the games they were playing, only to have them turn to me and spit out, "Go home. You're not good enough to play with us."
My spirit and joy seemed to shrivel up like summer fruit left out in the sun. Years earlier one of the pastors of the church had been called to serve as the senior pastor of the church with NO experience as a senior pastor. I was a member of this church for a decade, and only applying for the LOWEST position on the pastoral staff, but even for that I wasn't good enough. And now I wasn't even going to get a chance. What I had been doing for the church now seemed to count for nothing. No one even seemed to consider that because I was trying to serve while at the same time help my dad who was dying from cancer, I was considered "unpersonable". I swam around the emotional pool for weeks, going from deep despair, to anger, to finally emerge on the shores of depression.
In the weeks that followed, I tried picking up the pieces of what remained of my heart. With dad gone, I had placed so much hope of ministering alongside cherished brothers in Christ. Now I was a reject. Unwanted. I felt that years spent at seminary were a waste. I felt my life was over. There were days I wanted to die. I can remember nights when I would rest my head upon my pillow, feel it grow wet from silent tears, and fall asleep hoping I would never wake up.
Luckily there was Mom. I poured my life into caring for her.
And yet, over a decade after the event, there are days when I still feel like a failure.