(Note: I recently wrote this for another venue. But since I pick up new readers occasionally who don't know much about me, I thought I'd cross-post here.)
Hi everybody! I've been a reader here off and on for a while. But I decided to jump into the forums and actually be a part of things. Here's a not-so-short version of my story. I grew up in a church that was very much performance-oriented (even though they wouldn't have ever agreed with that assessment). As a teenager, I felt a call to ministry, and that ramped up the expectations for me. Both the expectations I put on myself, and the expectations I felt God had for me.
I went through college and seminary, all the while working in various church positions. Toward the end of seminary, my wife and I decided that God was calling us to start a church. Our church started out meeting in rented halls and conference rooms.
I should say through all this work I was putting in to glorify God, I rarely felt like He was pleased with me. I had a theological understanding that He and I were at peace. I knew that I was supposed to have fellowship with Him. But He often seemed completely distant. And that just fueled my feeling that He was unhappy with me. I knew that something was wrong, but the only answer I could see was working harder. Of course, that didn't work either, and I would often just spiral into doubt and regret about my life and my faith.
After meeting in rented rooms for a while, I started becoming convinced that what was really wrong with church and my work was that we were meeting the way early Christians used to meet: in homes. So our little church started meeting in homes every week. Our meetings started being more casual and interactive. "House church" really was a good fit for us. But something still wasn't right. I couldn't work hard enough, or regret my mistakes enough, to make God approve of me.
Finally, I just had enough. I had to walk away from ministry. Since what I was doing wasn't creating a better relationship between me and God, what was the point? I sent our people off to good churches where they would be fed and happy, and my family and I kind of drifted. We met up with some house church people, and I really like the style of their meetings. (I still do.)
It's been about 2 years since I left the pro ministry. God is doing something deeper in me. At some point, I realized that God isn't that concerned about where the body gets together on Sunday. And He's not even that excited about what I do in my service for Him. What He wants is me. Not my work. Not my gigantic ministry plans. Just me.
The realization that God loves me just because He loves me is still re-shaping the core of who I am. Do I still get depressed sometimes? Yes. Do I feel like I should be "doing more for the Kingdom?" Sometimes. But what I don't feel as much anymore is the weight, the burden of God's disapproval. Because now I know, and sometimes I even feel, that I am God's beloved child. No matter what I do, say, or think, He won't ever love me more, or less, than He does right now.
I know this is overly long, so thanks for reading...And since you read to the end, here's some musical enlightenment...