“No one has loved us like you.” She was about to cry, this dear, dear woman. “Don’t leave us, pastor. Don’t leave.”
And how can I? I do love her. God has used me to call her back to his side, to bring her to Jesus’s feet, to lead her to rejoice in forgiveness and raise her face to the light of grace. And now she tells me that I cannot leave. How could I leave her?
Later today, I look over the evening service. I see people God has used me to reach. I see teens and young moms and old men and… and I know that this is a unique ministry that I have here. That not every pastor could handle ministering to this group of people. How could I leave them?
And I hear another call. And they tell me what they’re looking for. And what they’re looking for… it’s me. Or at least someone with the same talent set God has given to me. And I talk to others to make sure that what they say they want is really what they want and need. And the previous pastor tells me yes; what they need matches my gifts. How could I not go?
And I learn more about what life is like at this other call. And it sounds like it doesn’t have the problems I’ve faced here. It is not perfect; I am assured this by all the right people. But the heartaches I have had here would not follow. And I would love to start over. And these people match who I am in ways I have not seen here. And… how could I not go?
I’ve started talking to the members of this other congregation. They sound like people I can serve and serve well. They sound like people I could indeed love. And they call out for a shepherd to shepherd them. How could I tell them no?
And I see the teens I work with here. And they cried out this week when I told them about the call. And these teens need a shepherd to be with them, too. How could I tell them no?
I love this place where I am. I love these people. They have been thorns and hurt me again and again and yet God has allowed me to love them and serve them. How could I leave?
And I have already begun to love this place I have been called to, so far away. How could I stay?
I can’t do this. (more…)