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The Way to have “working for the Lord” directly
I never sought to lead a small group for guys who were fighting–especially with marriage issues–but God simply put this specific group of guys in my course. Many of the guys had lately gone through a divorce and were still hurting, some were in the middle of divorce, and a couple of other people appeared to be moving in that way. “We are in your corner” became our group slogan, as we all saw ourselves saying it to at least one guy weekly. I believed God brought these guys into my life for me to shepherd and disciple.
“I simply don’t wish to get married to you anymore.” I was not well prepared to hear those words out of my spouse, and were four teenaged kids. Suddenly we were split. Heidi moved to an apartment, and I transferred into a shadowy valley of their soul. I stepped out of my small-group ministry position so that I could concentrate on my loved ones and try to reconcile with my spouse.
During this period, I decided to read through the book of Psalms, knowing it may give me hope and satisfaction from God. 1 afternoon, as I read Psalm 42, I wrote in my diary, “I am feeling sadder and more hurt, fearful, heartbroken, and lost than ever. I feel like everything is crumbling around me, and I really feel beat up and totally broken.”
Within this dark valley, I learned about God, myself, relationships, and ministry than at any other period in my life.
To fully grasp just how I got to that point, I must go back 30 years after I started seminary and got involved in ministry. A Christian mentor invited me to throw my life into what God was calling me to do. Colossians 3:23 shortly became my own life: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not to human masters.” Other verses reinforced my driveway to work for God. I underlined Proverbs 16:3 within my Bible: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your aims.” Then I highlighted, brought a box around, and scribbled stars alongside Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all those things will be given to you as well.”
I put my entire heart into my studies and ministry. I believed I was living by biblical principles–God first, then my spouse, then our kids as they came along, and then everything else. Yet reality told another story.
Doing well in seminary and composing an A+ thesis were paramount. Whatever time I’d left –that was not far–I invested Heidi. Then came the writing of my first publication. Afterward the foundation of a convention, that meant spending many late nights in my basement office. Then more books and a growing number of speaking opportunities. Then a couple church ministry positions. I worked hard building connections with church members; finding, creating, and deploying new leaders; assisting start many new little classes; linking more and more people into classes; caring for our leaders; investing in trainers and supervisors within our growing ministry– while leaving Heidi to fend for himself together with our growing family. She felt lonely.
Somewhere along the way I started to treat my relationship with God and my ministry for God as the exact same thing. If I was to work with all of my heart, I believed I had to put everything I had into it. And over time, Heidi felt as though she was less important to me than what I did and the people in my personal ministry. She did not sense she had my heart –and that I did not realize just how she was.