I realize this blog is a little long; but, it’s important to raise our spiritual leader(s) up on a regular basis–by offering prayer and at times showing them some appreciation. In honor of Pastor Appreciation month, I would like to dedicate this blog to those who have given their time to tend their flocks. I know that my pastor’s compassion helped me to change my life. I was sexually abused as a child, and I had a lot of baggage. My pastor helped me to understand how to leave my past abuse behind while becoming more passionate for Christ.
So how can we show our appreciation to our spiritual leaders? Well, most pastors put a significant amount of their time into preparing sermons. I think one of the best ways to give encouragement to them is by being faithful participants in the congregation.
Many pastors pour their heart out, using God’s words, into a sermon to tell us the truth of His grace and love for us. These words spoken, allow us to understand the faith & hope we can have through Him so that we can live and have a passion for Him.
It seems to me that the life of a pastor might be one of the loneliest professions one could pick. It has the makings of a very tough, demanding – and lonely – occupation.
Frustrating? Some of the times, yes. Rewarding? Most times, yes. Spiritually fulfilling? I am most certain yes, and on many different levels.
To spend one’s “everyday” life to further the kingdom of God must be a great profession indeed.
We all have days where nothing seems to go right. Maybe days of immense stress with any number of things that could be contributing to a “bad day.” Maybe you’re having a “season” of bad days.
When that happens, it’s not uncommon for us to talk the situation over with a spouse, family member, friend, or peer. Those conversations can be a great relief. Maybe you might come up with some solutions that you had not considered.
Your pastor has probably had some of those same “bad” days; but, unlike the rest of us, they often don’t have the luxury of a sounding board.
Think about it. Most of us have jobs where we are faced with “performance” appraisals once, maybe twice a year. Pastors are continually being critiqued on a weekly basis. I’m sure there is someone sitting in the pews, on any given Sunday, who is thinking that the sermon could have been better, or that the music wasn’t to their liking, or that the service just wasn’t “good” enough.
It’s almost certain that at least some of the comments will make their way back to them. Who are they going to discuss their concerns with about the fact that no matter what they do…somebody seems to be unhappy?
Then there’s this role of counselor. We often speak to our spiritual leader in confidence. Things said, and seen, can weigh heavily on their heart. All along pondering how to deal with such difficult situations. Yet, where can they go when they are feeling emotionally drained themselves? Where can they go to receive advice about how to handle a particular situation? That could be a whole separate blog; but, at this time I want to share what one of my pastors did for me.
As a child I had been sexually abused by my stepfather from the ages of 7-15…becoming most intense from age 9 and on. I had no idea of how much the abuse really affected me. The following is an excerpt from my site “About Grace Desired”:
“My husband, Sam Hairston, had researched and found a church that taught reformed doctrine. We had been attending Redeemer Presbyterian Church for over a year. I have never been one to stand out at church. I have pretty much been a back row worshiper. I obviously lacked passion for His truth–because there was definitely a lack of knowledge.
As time went on, and due to the good leadership at the church, I began to understand more of the Bible–the truth of His Word. The senior pastor, Tom Gibbs, has a vision and a passion for furthering His kingdom by being compassionate toward His people. The church has a vision and passion as well. Together, the community of the whole church has a passion for wanting to further His kingdom within our city and beyond. For the first time, since I was in high school, I had begun to love a church.
At church it was spoken that the broken (being me) could be energized by the “grace of God”. Week after week, I began to hear that Jesus was for the brokenhearted. Tom preached, and I heard that Jesus could be my champion, and that I could be made new like the “Oaks of Righteousness“. I also heard that God took delight in me. I thought, who me? I am a broken and scarred sinner who is full of shame, guilt, fear, and contempt. How can that possibly be? I was a skeptic!
At the time, Pastor Tom Gibbs, and his wife Tara, believed something else. They had noticed the back row worshiper and her family. I was told that they had prayed for us prior to their time spent with me. I suppose they wanted us to become the front row family.
Anyway, they began to play an integral part in my life. They dedicated much of their time trying to help me see that His grace and love is the reality of my faith & hope; thus, I would learn that I have really received His grace for my past secrets. They helped me to begin to understand that my shame, guilt, fear, along with my contempt, were unnecessary–because Christ took all of that away when He was nailed to the cross. The path was becoming clearer. I was to begin my journey learning that God desired me for who I was…even if I was broken.
I began to realize that God was actually “wining and dining” me. God longed for my attention. I began to feel God’s love, and it was the kind of love that I subconsciously craved for years and did not know it. Many, many months went by, and little did we know that a volcanic eruption (in epic proportion) would follow after the completion of the workbook. It was very painful to recall the memories I had suppressed. I began to have nightmares. I had no idea of the emotions that were surfacing to the top (like the beach ball). These were emotions that I had harbored within my very soul for years.
My “season” of confusion, self-hatred, and fear became too complex… even to the point of a deep despair. I began to become so frustrated that I cut myself a couple of different times. Of course I never really wanted to die; but, that I just wanted to get the horrible shame, guilt, and fear out of my body.
My “season” of emotions turned into “seasons” gone bad; kind of like a really bad reality TV show.
I believe God puts people into our lives for a reason. I definitely believe God brought the Gibbs’ into my life for a reason.”
Sometimes we put our spiritual leaders on pedestals of sorts – and it’s got to be a little lonely up there. We might forget that they’re human beings just like we are. They have strengths, and they have weaknesses, just like us. They get tired. They get frustrated. They need a pat on the back every once in a while, too!
So while Pastor Appreciation Month is a great thing, remember it’s important to support them all year long with prayers and words of encouragement. If last week’s sermon had a particular impact on you, say so. Send your spiritual leader a note of appreciation. You can also support spiritual leaders by becoming more involved with the church.
If we are enthusiastic followers of God, it will mean something to God – and to His ordained servants. I’m thankful that my pastor showed compassion and saw more in me, than I saw in me. He saw that God was not finished with me yet. Through his compassion he helped me to leave my past abuse behind and helped me to become more passionate for Him. Thank you, Pastor!
My prayer for spiritual leaders would be: “May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.” ~Philippians 1:2
In honor of Pastor Appreciation month, I would like to thank the rest of the staff at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, Texas. They are as follows: Tom Gibbs, Senior Pastor; Brandon Eggar, Associate Pastor; Victor Martinez, Assistant Pastor; Michael Novak, RUF Pastor; Brent Watkins, Music Ministry (BTW he also has his own jazz band “South Texas Jazz); Bekah McNeel, Children’s Director; Matt Beham, Youth Director (who has spent countless hours with my kids); Harriet Peavy, Office Administrator; Sarah Gill, Assistant Administrator. I would also like to thank the Elders, Deacons, and Deaconesses for their countless hours of service. There are so many others that play an integral part behind the scenes, and God bless you all for your time and efforts to further His kingdom.
When did my faith become real? I believe receiving faith is never-ending; therefore, my faith becomes more real with each “real” season I experience. I recently told a friend that my current season of tribulations was like a bad reality TV show, and that I sincerely hoped that it would not be picked up for another season.
All joking aside, one of the worst trials I have ever had to go through was when I was a child. I was sexually abused. That terrible season has left many battle wounds and scars that still have not completely healed.
That experience led me to live a life that was not always conducive to spiritual growth. I lived in fear of others…especially men. My relational skills were lacking, and thus my communication skills followed suit. Because I let my anger get the best of me, I became one who began to contribute to the pain of others. The pain I caused was mainly due to my own selfish idols, and of my own making.
I was like a horse wearing blinders. I could not see the pain I was causing others because of the pain I harbored inside, or even the pain I was causing myself.
As a result of my past abuse I have carried a backpack full of idols, pain, and fear. I lack self confidence. I am a skeptic when it comes to thinking that my Father could give me the grace of forgiveness that I so desire. Even though I did not wish this abuse on myself, in the back of my mind I always wonder if I deserved it.
My husband, Sam, has explained his take on the situation. If I had gone into the doctor’s office to get a physical, and several days later I got strep throat…did that mean I wanted to get strep throat? Of course not, nor did I expect to get it. Strep throat causes many to become quite ill. In fact, I usually get a headache and nausea along with it–making it a triple whammy! Under the circumstances, I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I never asked for the strep throat, and I certainly never asked for the abuse. My friend described the abuse like an illness that was given to me. I couldn’t help it! It was given to me. I was so very young, and the abuser had no right to pin the abuse on me as my fault. To threaten me with harsh words, and fists to body…warning me to never tell or he would beat me up. No child deserves to be treated with such disrespect. To be made to feel like scum, and then told that no one will ever want them because they were tainted.
I believed him!
I have always wanted to run in a race; but, definitely lacked the passion to train. Trust me, I am no runner. When I was at Baylor University I was on the track team; but, as a javelin thrower. Running was definitely not my forte. In fact, one year I did not qualify in the javelin for the Texas Relays, so I had to run the 10K. It took me an hour and six minutes to run that race. The man who ran the half marathon passed me up. BTW…now I would be lucky to walk a 10K.
Now I am remembering that I have this awfully heavy backpack, and I am thinking how do I run with a heavy backpack? I see the military, or fitness gurus running with heavy loads to train; but, I don’t want to train with a heavy backpack. I am not a fitness guru, and I definitely don’t want to train with a heavy load. It would be extremely hard!
So how do I lighten the load in my backpack? I have carried the load for many years. I have become quite attached to my many idols, and I don’t know which ones should stay or go.
Then my Heavenly Father suggests to me to give Him my backpack. I asked Him, “Why do you want my backpack?”
He answered, “Because, I love you, and I want you to run to me. I want you to fix your eyes on Me. I have made a promise to carry your heavy burdens, and I want you to run the race that is set before you.”
Okay, so even if I were to give Him my backpack, how would that help me to see Him? How would that allow me a clearer vision to be able to run to Him?
I know now that I lacked a true passion for recognizing my Father, and his promise that He made to me. I lacked faith and hope in the words He was telling me to obey. I must really enjoy my bad reality TV show because that’s where I was headed…back to “seasons gone bad.”
I tried to focus on Him; but, I could not see Him at all. I only recognized my stepfather, and all of the horrible things he had done and/or told me. He was no father to me. He did not protect me, or love me. I became scared…so much so, that a couple of times during the race I considered suicide as an alternative to facing my fears. Truth is, my own hindrances of my own idols were causing me to lack the faith I needed to run the race…to run the race with patient endurance.
I wanted to hurry up and train for the race my way. I wanted to be in control. In the back of my mind I wondered if I could run the race by myself? Did I really need my Father? Could I train without any help, because asking for help might mean I was weak? I certainly did not want to look weak and unworthy to anyone. I mean my stepfather did say that no one would want someone as worthless as myself. I wanted to believe I could prove my stepfather wrong.
I learned quickly that training, and running alone, did not seem to be working for me. Training by myself, I noticed that I seem to fail every time. I was extremely out of shape.
I wondered do I really to need the “Author and Finisher” of my faith to help me train for this race? Does He really know what path to take to get to the finish line? Would He really be the only One who would be able to keep me from “jumping the gun” at the start of the race, and would certainly keep me from facing disqualification? Would He do this for me just because He loved me?
I had to really dig deep inside to see what I really desired. Did I want to continue carrying my heavy backpack, or give it freely to Him? My faith was lacking; but, He told me, “Come ye who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” He was telling me to cast my burdens upon Him, and He in turn would help me cross the finish line so that I could rest. I definitely need rest. I look horrible!
With His help, I found the faith, hope, and strength to go the distance…even when I could not always see the finish line. I knew that I would be able to reach the prize–which had already been fulfilled by Him. I knew that He would give me rest.
I have decided that my faith in Him should not be just wishful thinking, but having a true passion; a trusting confidence that His promise of grace is for me–despite my past secrets, my present idols, or my future mistakes. Through faith, God’s grace gives me freedom to be me—broken and scarred.
So when did my faith become real? Every time I step out the door and experience various seasons. Just putting one foot in front of the other, and walking out the door. Now that’s having real faith to me!
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.” ~ Hebrews 11:1