We met in seminary, We were in love, and both of us had a passion for ministry and an excitement of what lay ahead. They said marriage is difficult enough without the aspect of a past and a struggle that once a church finds out about, they probably won’t want you on their staff. We had optimism and hope that this world needed a story like ours. We didn’t want struggle.
Though the optimism we started out with faded over that first decade when marriage required a lot of dying to self when the struggles were unchartered and our desire for ministry required dying to the idol of what success looked like when time and time again churches didn’t understand the beauty in our story and our struggles.
But it led us to a path of freedom and ultimately to a place like St. Pete where we have spent more time cultivating relationships with people who don’t know Jesus than ever before in our lives. And are finding the Kingdom alive and well in places and in people lives we formerly never would have associated with.
Death leads to life.
I’ll never forget the discussion with one of the specialists we saw when we were expecting our first son. Right out of the gate she wanted to discuss palliative care for our baby who had been given a grim diagnosis. We cut her off and said, we weren’t ready for that conversation.
It wasn’t that we hadn’t grieved or that we were in denial about the gravity of what lay ahead. It was that we knew we had a God who was the author and finisher of life and we knew it was God that put in us a desire to fight for life. We didn’t want death.
Though we fought for our child’s life and prayed like never before, We left the hospital without our son. We were heartbroken but knew we could trust God in what was unfolding. Asher’s death paved the way for 6 kids to be adopted when unless for adoption their lives could have been taken too early but instead we have been entrusted to nurture and help tell their stories of life.
Death leads to life.
I’ve been taught from an early age, and also found that it comes naturally to me to protect my reputation within the church and my online influence. Your Network equals Net worth right? We can’t let those we lead see our weaknesses, then they won’t follow us. There is a lot of security in being well known and well connected in this digital age. Those were the lies I was choosing to believe and strive towards. I didn’t want rejection.
UNTIL…. God was asking us to be honest and vulnerable about our story and speaking about the church’s posture towards the LGBTQ community.
UNTIL…. we knew God was breaking our hearts over the sins of racism that were so deeply embedded in our country, our culture, and my own heart.
UNTIL….we knew God was exposing a church culture that attracted the rich and powerful and often completely missed changing the systems that oppress the poor and marginalized.
When we started speaking out about the things God was breaking our hearts over we started losing financial support, losing close friends and family.
But what we have found is a bunch of weary wounded souls who are hungry to hear about a risen Savior that defeated unjust systems, frees the captive, and makes new the broken, is a friend to the sinner, and advocates on behalf of the unlovely, the unwanted, the despairing, and for those who have no voice.
Death leads to life.
He didn’t want to die. He BEGGED not to. He BEGGED for any other way to be found. He loved His life. He loved His ministry. He loved His family.
He felt alone…. He wrestled… He felt anything but peace…. He sweat blood… He said if that’s what it takes… I’ll do it. BUT Please NO!!
He didn’t want to struggle, he didn’t want rejection, he didn’t want death. But he wanted Gods will.
His betrayal by followers and church leaders, His unjust Trial, His merciless whipping, His death of a criminal. His abandonment of friends and His own Father, His Pain, His Death.
That Death…. It led to life.
And it was that death and the defeat of it that gives meaning, gives purpose, gives endurance,… for all the countless deaths that would follow and would give us as a Christian people the unique hope and confidence that life would indeed triumph in time over the deaths, struggles, and rejection we beg to be spared from but ultimately have to walk through.
Because God knows Death leads to life.