In the year 2008 I experienced the most painful season to date in ministry. For several months I had been walking with some staff members through some significant personal trials. We were all weary, and I was convinced I was nearing my limits as a leader and friend. Then early one morning I was praying with my Thursday morning men’s Bible study when bad went to worse.
My cell phone rang and a frantic voice on the other end was crying for help. It took a moment for me to process what was going on, but within seconds I was in my car and on my way to the home of our worship minister Paul Tucker. Paul had died in the night of a catastrophic hemorrhage, and his wife and son had just awakened to the discovery.
There are some events in the life of a church family that are nearly impossible to prepare for, and this was one of them. I will never forget watching the funeral directors place my friend’s body in the back of their van. As I stood on his front porch I was lost in my thoughts and doubted I possessed enough wisdom and strength for the days ahead.
Three days later I was sitting in our Family Life Center as our Praise Team practiced for Paul’s funeral. The voices of the singers comforted me while I made some last-minute changes to my funeral message. When my cell phone lit up with a call from an “unknown” number, I almost ignored it since I couldn’t imagine there was anything more important than what I was doing at that moment. I was wrong. A husband and father in our church family had been in a terrible motorcycle accident, and hadn’t regained consciousness. One week later I was sitting in the Family Life Center again preparing for his funeral.
I look back on this tragic time in the life of our church, with two staff members already hurting, a third taken from us, and the loss of the father as a result of an accident, and I am still not sure how we survived. Please don’t get me wrong. I am convinced God is the One who carried us through. I just don’t know how. It certainly wasn’t through me, because my heart was as shattered as it could possibly be. I wanted to help those whose lives had been crushed by their circumstances, but I felt woefully ill-equipped to make a difference. To this day I can’t think about these dark days without breaking down.
But with God’s help we did survive, and in many ways thrive. Christ’s Bride rose from her couch of mourning, reclaimed her composure and glowed with beauty for the whole world to see. We will talk more about this amazing resilience later after we finish our examination of holy messes.