My Life of Regret and Hope

My life story of regret and hopeSome people think I have lost my faith. I think I am only now beginning to find it.

Parts of my story, my journey of faith, my walk with God (or whatever you want to call it) have been posted in various places online (on Jason Boyett’s blog, for example) and in a book I edited last year, but little of it has been posted here on this blog. Let me summarize some of the highlights.

My Life in a Few Paragraphs

I was raised in a pastor’s family. I had two loving parents, and nine siblings. I loved growing up, going to church, attending school, and spending time with friends and family. I sometimes wish I could go back and relive my childhood.

Upon graduating from high school, I went to college to become a Mechanical Engineer. After my freshman year, a good friend of mine died in a hiking accident, and as a result, I thought that I should reconsider my life goals. So I decided to become a pastor. I went away to Bible college, where I got my degree, and more importantly, met and married my beautiful wife, Wendy.

After graduation from Bible college, I decided to get an M.Div., but after only a year, decided that I would rather just enter into professional, full-time ministry. So Wendy and I went to Montana, where I became the Senior Pastor of a small, struggling church.

I pastored there for three and half years. The church had numerous problems, and I was an inexperienced pastor and so made numerous mistakes. But for the most part, I enjoyed being a pastor, and wanted to do nothing else for the rest of my life. I loved the people I worked with, and loved the community we lived in. I was not the best husband, however, and was too consumed with ministry to help my wife out at home much, or take an active role in raising the two girls that my wife had delivered during this time.

At the end of three and half years, the church could no longer pay our salary. The church was very small (only about 35 people), and I had made some pastoral decisions which had angered the main financial backers of the church, and so they stopped tithing. When the money ran out, the governing board bowed to the demands of the big tither and asked me to resign, which I did.

I then became the pastor of a larger church in a nearby town. This was every pastor’s dream church. Oh sure, there were problems, but for the most part, the people were warm and loving. The services were well-attended. The elders were supportive. The families were active. I loved this church and everybody in it. But I also had a growing sense in the back of my mind that I needed to finish my Master’s degree. So with a heavy heart I resigned, and moved my family to Texas to get a Th.M.

In the process of moving to Texas, I landed my dream job. I got to work with an author and Bible scholar I highly respected, helping him publish his books, plan his speaking engagements, and coordinate various conferences around the country. I even got a few of my own articles published, and was invited to speak at a few conferences and churches as a result of my involvement with this ministry. I was working full time and attending school more than full time (I completed a four-year degree in three years), and so needless to say, my marriage suffered even more than it had before. Then, right before graduation, I wrote a blog post which ended up getting me fired from my job.

regretI sunk into depression. My faith shattered.  Everything I had worked for and hoped for lay in pieces at my feet. I lost my dream job, and almost all of my Christian friends abandoned me. After applying for nearly 60 different jobs, the only job I could get was as a carpet cleaner. I also had pretty much destroyed my wife and my three daughters by ignoring them for most of my time as a pastor and all of my time as a seminary student. It seemed to me that by almost every standard, my life was a complete failure.

Eventually, I found a new job as a prison chaplain in New York. It was not something I ever imagined doing, but it was in my “field” of training, and paid better than cleaning carpets. While in New York, I started trying to rebuild. I sought to rebuild myself, my faith, my marriage, and my family. I changed a lot of my beliefs. My wife and I went to marriage counseling. I started looking for a new way to follow Jesus.

A year ago, we moved to Oregon. I still have the same job, but in a different location. I am still slowly trying to rebuild my life, my faith, and especially, my marriage and my family. There are many signs of progress, but sometimes, I am afraid that sooner or later, it will all come crashing down once again. One of the main things that keep me going however, is hope.

My Life of Regret and Hope

I sometimes regret that I gave up mechanical engineering for pastoral ministry. Though I truly enjoy studying and teaching Scripture, I sometimes feel frustrated that given my current career path, the only jobs I qualify for are in the field of professional ministry. But I am hopeful that God will use my detail-oriented and creative-thinking brain in the field of Bible study and theology to help others see that God may not be like what many of us have been taught, and that the Bible may not say what we have always thought.

I sometimes regret that I left that first church. There are many aspects to pastoral ministry that I desperately miss. I sometimes wish that rather than resign, I had simply taken a secular job in the community and remained on as pastor without taking a salary. This decision would have taken away all the power from the “money” in the church, and would have freed me up to lead the church in the direction we needed to go. But I am hopeful that maybe, somehow, God might lead me into some form of pastoral ministry again, in a way that does not require me to take a salary, and to serve alongside other people who want to follow Jesus into the world.

hopeI sometimes regret that I left that second church to go to seminary. The people there were so loving and kind. I miss many of them desperately. But now that we have finally settled into an area in which we hope to stay for a while, I am hopeful that God will bring more people into our lives with whom we can build friendships, and learn to love. We have been in our current location for just one year, but we already see some of these sorts of friendship developing.

I sometimes regret posting that fateful blog post which got me fired from my dream job in Texas, and which caused a lot of heartache and confusion in the minds of people I worked with or who looked up to me. But I am hopeful, because the experience of leaving that job opened my eyes and mind to a whole new way of viewing people, thinking about theology, reading Scripture, interacting with others, and ultimately, living life. I believe I am now more loving, gracious, and forgiving than I ever was before. And quite a bit more humble. (That’s a joke!)

I always regret the way I treated my wife for all those years as a pastor and as a seminary student and during my years of depression. She deserved so much better. And yet I am more hopeful now for our marriage than I have been in a long time. She has forgiven me, and shown love to me, and we are laughing together and living together with joy in ways that we have never before experienced.

Sometimes Wendy and I ask ourselves if it was all worth it. In so many ways, we see Jesus, we read the Bible, and we understand God so differently than before. We think it was worth it.

I often joke that the “me” of fifteen years ago would consider the “me” of today a heretic. But the “me” of today does not consider the “me” of fifteen years ago a heretic; just somebody who had to learn some difficult lessons the hard way. Though my life is full of regrets (and there will probably be many more to come), I never would have learned the things I know now if I had not experienced what I did. This too leads me to hope.

I hope that the future “me” can remember that when I make mistakes, God can resurrect hope and joy from the ashes. After all, without death, there is no resurrection. So when parts of my life die, whether by design or by poor choices, I must remember that even in the dark despair of the moment, God is at work to bright forth light, love, joy, and hope.


This post was written as part of the November Synchroblog, in which different bloggers write about their journey of faith. Here is a list of other contributors:


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Comments

  1. says

    Thank you for sharing about your life, Jeremy.
    Seeing how God is working in your life gives me hope He will work in mine as well.
    I have been married for four years now. And my biggest regret is not being the husband my wife deserves. We are going to go seek some marriage counseling. I’m hopeful it will help us. Mostly it needs to help me, though, as I am the one that has made things difficult for us by poor choices I’ve made. I regret, but I hope too.

    • says

      I hope you find it helpful. All marriages are different, and counselors can sometimes help us work through what is holding our marriage back. By way of full disclosure, all of our marriage counselors stunk. In fact, they all “gave up” on us. And we were paying them!

      Anyway, through it all, my wife and I are learning to communicate, communicate, communicate. It’s tough and slow going, but we are making progress.

  2. Sam says

    Another thank you for sharing your story. Even though you’re not exactly where you would like to be in your journey, we have hope that someday you will be able to look back at the places you’ve been and understand that you had to pass through those places to get to where you will someday be. The best part of the journey lies ahead.

    I’ve had many pastor friends. Even though I understand the special relationship between some pastors and their people, I take issue with the traditional role of pastor in the traditional church. I have many times sat in rooms filled with those pastors, dozens and dozens, at a time and heard the other end of the story – what the job had done to them personally, to their marriages and to their families. In so many cases, pastoring destroys the pastor and his/her family.

    The close relationships some pastors have with their people are quite possible without being the pastor. So are the roles of teaching, helping and caring. Having a “day job” that is tolerable and pays the bills has some real advantages.

    A paid pastorate with all of the demands, unrealistic expectations and efforts at control exerted by those who really run most churches (usually led by those who give the most money) has destroyed many, many a pastor and often his marriage and family. That tells me the current model most pastors try to follow has morphed into something that destroys them, and ultimately is contributing to destroying the church.

    • says

      Thanks, Sam. I am not where I want to be, but who is? The joy is in the journey, right?

      Yes, we are gaining some close friendships where we live. Relationships are slow to develop as well, but that is how it should be.

  3. Mark Brown says

    The Refiner’s fire, eh?
    It sure doesn’t feel like Love and grace at the time… but “it” sure is!
    We can only learn true humility from the Humble King. We can only walk in it, as we walk in Hiim.

    Thanks for sharing some of your (and Wendy’s) story, Jer. It is a testimony of God’s love and grace for us all.
    We all have only one place to go to know the freedom of Hope/assurance. Jesus. He is all in all.

    “My hope is in the Lord.”
    If there’s one thing I hope my young sons “learn from me”, it’s that they only have one Hope for inner peace/rest for their souls.

    The Lord is using you and Wendy and your daughters in ways you’ll not know until “later”… more and more as you avail yourself to His ability, eh?
    Beauty from ashes, as you wrote.
    Thanks again my brother,
    Mark B.
    I look forward to meeting you “soon”. ;)

    • says

      Thanks, Mark. Your comment is encouraging… and a bit mysterious! Am I planning on meeting you soon and don’t know about it, or are you talking about our life in the eternal kingdom?

  4. Nils von Kalm says

    Thanks so much for your honesty, integrity and vulnerability Jeremy. It’s posts like these that show the real character of a person. It makes you more real and able to relate to. Keep walking the narrow road brother!

    • says

      Thanks, Nils. I fretted over this post some, and still held back a lot which was too painful or scary to share. A little bit at a time! I wish I could hear everybody else’s story!

  5. Tony Vance says

    It is funny how we ‘Christians’ don’t like honesty. I mean, when we talk about doubts, fears & questions many are ready to label us as ‘heretic’. In reality, this is the game played by the ‘religious’ to eliminate those who disagree and cause people to think on their own. I don’t always agree with your suppositions or conclusions but God bless you for causing us to think (which I think in some religious circles is a sin). Keep it up Jeremy, your ministry matters, is Christ’s hands in earth and has blessed me tremendous.

  6. Edwin Pastor FedEx Aldrich says

    Jeremy,

    Each time you reveal a little more of your story, I feel more like a kindred to you. My wife and I were just having a discussion about the “me” when we were first married, and we both had to agree that I was a pretty big jerk. We also talked about our regrets, but my wife informed me that she would not trade all the struggles if it meant getting the old jerk Ed back.

    Hoping we get to have coffee next month when you come out.

    FedEx

  7. says

    I’m blessed by reading this, Jeremy.

    Through trusting in Him there is always hope. Trust in Romans 8:28. If you’re called according to His purpose, He is working all things in your life for good, for His glory. Whether He orchestrated events or not, He can and does work all things for His glory. Your humility in sharing your story is a small example of that.

    I believe you will bless many in their relationship with Christ.

  8. andrew says

    Hey brother, all things work together for good, im sure you know the the scripture roms 8/28. you are hammered Gold going threw the furnace of time and at the end/given time you will shine bright my brother. Refined perfect. As we know God lives outside of time and the creator of time and is the alpha and omega, so to understand this is like Our God is looking at a chest board and moving his pieces into place, along the way battles are to be fought and conquered. Your faith and Hope in Our Majestic Lord Yeshua our Messiah has not gone unseen believe that, you are a blessed child of Adiona and anointed with the truth. Always remember Brother this life is start of something more imaginable than our little minds can fathom. God Bless and Peace to you my Friend..

  9. Ian Johnstone says

    Thank you for your candor and honesty. If all those in Christian leadership followed your example and ‘examined’ themselves with the same depth and humility, imagine the positive sea change in the ‘church’! As others have commented; I relate to your blog posts, theology and version of Christianity because of the above and the obvious heart you have that puts Jesus first regardless of your career aspirations, personal desires or intellectual ability. Sounds as though he has got your attention and your listening! I am glad for you that your life is now on the up with all the stuff the institution told us was of primary importance, has been slam dunked into the bin (think that is the term, we don’t have baskets in cricket!). I found after I had stopped ranting on blogs, social media, etc. God asked me if I’d finished my tantrum then took my hand and led me away from the negatives. You may be pleased to hear your work was on the reading list He gave me. Bless you and yours, may I be the first to wish you a happy Thanks giving (as a Brit, I’m not sure If that’s treasonous or not, hope so!), and I pray the Lord will continue to use you as an instrument of His will. Cheers mate.

    • says

      Thanks, Ian. Of course, I hope Christian leaders don’t follow my example! Ha. I am a pretty lousy role model. But I get what you are saying.

      And thanks for the Thanksgiving blessing! It was a good Thanksgiving. (Not treasonous at all! Now… if you wished me Happy Independence Day, well, that might be different. Ha!)

  10. Stephen says

    Thank you Jeremy for your courage, honesty and willingness to be transparent. I am 67 years old and it took me the better part of more than 50 years of self-centered sinfulness to surrender to the love of the triune God. In that time I “wrote” a story that gave me the sense of self loathing that I feel when reading your “Life of Regrets.” I am broken and come to Jesus in that brokenness everyday. The beauty is that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are always available to me when I call out to them.

    I will not get into a “who is the worst sinner” monologue, I am pretty certain that you wouldn’t either.

    Let me simply say that I have been a despicable person who did despicable acts. In scripture I found out that the Lord forgave and changed David, Saul (Paul) and many others who made me look like a kindergartener. From that I was given a tiny seed of Hope, Courage and Surrender.

    Hope that I could change (actually be changed). Courage to call on the Lord I had despised. Surrender that meant that I am NOT my own God.

    I know you know all this (I am preaching to the choir) but if you are like me, the most efficient part of my brain is my “forgetter. So just a loving gentle reminder.

    We all are susceptible to regret, it is a tool that the “legions of the enemy” use to drive a wedge between us and our Lord. The counter measure that works for me is IMMEDIATE prayer, meditation on scripture (I suggest Psalms and/or Proverbs.) Frank and honest conversation with my spiritual advisor. We are NOT self propelled (another lie of the enemy) we ALL need support and MUST support each other…….. we are a community.

    As a community we can manifest the forgiveness of our Lord by guiding and exhorting each other to forgive ourselves! Deep, prayerful and meditative contemplation of Christ’s price on the cross brings me to a place of accepting the Lord’s forgiveness and forgiving myself. The caution is this, and it is a big one, do not attempt this alone (that would be arrogance and ego, another set of tools of the enemy.) I do not mean to be presumptive, make certain you have a strong faith partner (I would advise against your wife, for obvious reasons) that you trust and can “drop your collar” with.

    The gift that the Lord has given you and you are wisely using gives me a degree of assurance that you are not in any immediate danger, but like all of us, you need to know you are Loved and Supported. Doctrine is human, Unqualified Love is Divine.

    The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you.

    Shalom,

      • Stephen says

        It is “counter intuitive” to Let go and Let God” and that is THE PROBLEM!
        Time after time Jesus lovingly bids us turn it all to Him—why do I resist? I let the enemy into my head.

          • Stephen says

            Please help me to understand the difference between, or how the mind and the “flesh” are differentiated/separated.

          • Mark says

            Stephen,
            The difference between the enemy in our head, (in other words satan throwing darts of temptation towards our minds -also known as invitations to sin)(read Ephesians 6:16), and our flesh, can be clearly seen in Isa. 53:6, Isaiah said that like sheep we have all gone astray, and each of us has turned to his own way. Notice that he didn’t say each has turned to the devil’s way, or to the world’s way, but rather to his own way. Listening to our flesh has to do with following your own way and adhering to your own opinions and desires. So we can be lead astray by both the enemy in our head and by our flesh.
            A good example is when Paul makes the statement, be angry and do not sin. Our flesh would be the one leading us to anger, but satan would temp us to sin.

            Mark

          • Stephen says

            Mark, thank you very much for your reply.

            “Ephesians 6:16 With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

            Cool! A defense against what I call “crazy brain.”

            “Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
            Going what I knew/know is “my own way” frequently felt/feels like I am been/being dragged into sin against my will by something over which I have no power. I am beginning to learn that I am “powerless” and am in need of an advocate.

          • says

            Mark and Stephen,

            Good discussion. Thanks for the interaction.

            There is a lot I still need to study on how we humans are “constructed” but I currently believe in a “tri-part” construction…. we consist of body, soul, and spirit. All have, in some sense, been corrupted by the fall, and all are, in some way, redeemed and remade though Jesus Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit.

            How these three interact in our thoughts and actions help us understand where temptation comes from and how we respond to God in faith and obedience, but that explanation would take a long time.

            I think Mark has fairly well explain my own views about the enemy of the fleshly mind and the enemy of the devil.

          • Stephen says

            Been contemplating “tri-part” construction. Seems segregational to me. By that I mean that it implies the being is comprised of compartmentalized and distinct forms of manifestations of life. Is that somewhat accurate?

            The “acid test” is how does “it” fit Jesus? ie; was he a body and a soul and a spirit as we would all be in the frame work of the “tri-part” construction?

            I agree totally, (based on my experience) that we are redeemed and remade through Jesus Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit.”

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