First off, I am sincerely sorry about my ridiculously long hiatus.
I was in a really tough place for the last few months. Thankfully, that desert season of my life brought me to a place of real dependence on God in the storm.
My prayers have never been so raw. Most nights, I found myself staying up until 2 and 3 in the morning, trying hard to remember what it’s like to have things together and whether I ever would again. There is nothing harder than trying to hold on to faith when there is no evidence of reprieve on the horizon. You just sort of marinate in the awfulness, fighting hard not to become bitter and dark.
I often felt like I was living someone else’s life and having some sort of out-of-body experience where I was watching my own life fall apart, all the while, wondering how I ended up here. My entire community was thousands of miles away and usually asleep by the time I got home from work, so I felt utterly alone. The maddening kind of alone where you’d weep, if you thought about it too much, especially about the part where you moved 2,300 miles all by yourself.
Fortunately, the Lord gave enough grace to sustain me through the toughest days, especially the mornings where it took all the strength I had (and some mental bargaining or berating) to get myself out of bed, get ready for work, and head to a job that would drain every bit of life out of me. It was virtually unbearable; I was running on fumes most of the time. Looking back now, I have no idea how I even got through it, apart from the grace of God giving strength and filling in the gaps.
The worst part? I was working for a church, and that’s ended up being a whole new level of disenchantment.
Don’t get me wrong. I obviously had some lofty expectations of what working for a church would be like. Also, there was a handful of amazing, godly people that I met and now consider great friends. They were the people who were much more faithful in pursuing me than I was at responding to them. Please hear me: I’m not throwing the baby out with the bath water.
My problem was the organization as a whole. It was broken and unhealthy (self-admitted). It used people up; I heard the terms “revolving door” and “culture of fear” almost weekly. They teach against idols, and all I saw there was idolatry. They teach grace, yet my experience was that virtually everyone was cracking under the weight their burdens. They say they care for women, yet I felt marginalized and condescended more times than could be excused away as me misinterpreting it. They claim they are above reproach, or at least strive to be, and yet, they would not pass even the most basic ethics assessment.
I had never seen a place quite like it, despite my decade-long career in accounting as an auditor, specializing in nonprofits and corporate business (and trust me, I’ve seen some messes). And yet, I none of that prepared me for the mess I found myself in. I tried hard to make sense of it, but there was no sense to be made of the smoke and mirrors that were all just a cover for a man building his own kingdom while claiming he was “on mission” for Jesus.
The whole Christian aspect of it made it even worse to stomach. Barring my legalistic church upbringing, I have never heard so much self-justifying Scripture-twisting in my life. My body often physically reacted when I would hear things like, “The world hated Jesus, so they hate us” or “it’s the enemy” or “don’t read the blogs…they’re demonic” in response to any and all criticism leveled at the organization from the outside, no matter how deserved. Never mind that some of it came from former staff or church members; people who love God just as much as “we” do. The fact that people were still coming and being baptized was often used as evidence as God’s favor (In fact, that was the most monitored metric, and also the most useless one because there was NO tracking to make sure that people who were spontaneously baptized ever came back to church…ya know, that whole discipling thing? Hate to break it to you, church, but it’s not just a buzzword).
Truth is, they were hemorrhaging people (staff and church attendees) just as much as “people were coming”, so why was the focus only on the one side of the equation? If leadership acknowledged the unhealthy culture and burning people out, why was that not priority and not treated as an important issue? How about former staff, elder, and attendee grievances? How many were pursued and investigated? How many people were rebuked and/or removed from their post for their gross mismanagement? How is it that it seemed like the ultimate goal is to protect the brand versus caring about the way this was defaming the name of Jesus? How do you even begin to address any of these issues without being branded as subversive or divisive, which was usually the case for those that did?
So, what did I do?
As much as I could, I fought for the things that were under my purview to fight for, which was mainly for my direct reports and the health of my department. I brought up as many issues as I could without getting myself fired. I tried my best to be honest without being divisive, but I soon realized that it was mostly pointless. Privately, with the CFO or head of HR, I was repeatedly told that I was identifying issues accurately, but then nothing ever changed or was addressed. Constant lip service.
Affirmation without change is useless. Conviction without repentence and/or restitution isn’t helpful. It’s exasperating.
In His infinite grace, God freed me up to leave, and I did. I gave five weeks notice, trained my replacement, continued to speak the truth in love, made new plans, pressed into the Lord when fear of the unknown overwhelmed me, and felt life returning to these bones. I’m still processing and will likely be unraveling all of this for a while. In may ways, I feel like I have just gone through something horrific and life-altering.
But, I have never been more sure of one thing: God is faithful and kind. Life is often crazy disorienting, but the Lord is a refuge from it all. People and organizations can be infinitely disappointing, and yet, He is as steady and sure as can be. He is unwavering.