To Martins Creek,
I’m doing okay and it’s wonderful. I would be lying to you all if I said that I was stress free and blissful. That doesn’t exist on this side of Heaven. I am doing okay. That means, “I am doing well. I am not covered up in my bed crying all day.” I am clean and sober and have been since April of 2014. Life is great! Sure, I experience the stress of being unemployed but please know that I am trying. There are a good number of Holmes County businesses that know I am looking for work. I have had lots of coffee with old friends and new acquaintances talking about life and making connections for employment. Friends, I am doing well. I have not felt this good emotionally and mentally in a few years. I am okay. We as a family are okay.
I also want to take this opportunity to say a few words about my time at Martins Creek. First, I miss you. I mostly miss your kids, but I miss you. I miss seeing your faces, hearing you laugh, hearing your stories and talking to you. I miss being with you the most. I miss our time together on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. I miss being a part of your lives and I miss you being a part of mine.
I also want to say “thank you.” Thank you for walking with me for almost 20 years. You welcomed me when I was a punk college kid who started dating one of your daughters. You welcomed me when I was a Baptist kid who did not know that a church could have more than one hymnal and that they could be different colors. You welcomed me when I had no idea what 606 meant or that harmony had four parts. You. Welcomed. Me. You took my bad and made me better. Then you did the unthinkable: you turned me into a Mennonite pastor. Crazy. A man by the name of Carl (remember him? I miss him too) convinced you that I was worth the risk. You led me and challenged me and opened up a new world of calling and passion that I had never known before. You loved me. You took a risk on me. You have shown me Grace.
Let’s talk about Grace. For 13 years, you called me your Associate pastor or Youth pastor depending on your experience. For 13 years you let me pour into the lives of your children. You gave me permission to show them the Grace and Love and Glory of Jesus Christ. I will never forget that and can never express my love and gratitude for you. For 13 years I had front row seats to your lives and got to see your kids grow up and take off. It was 13 amazing years.
Then on Sunday, October 12, 2014 you blew me away. Remember that morning? It was the morning when I resigned from my position as Associate pastor. It was the morning when I confessed to my sins and failures. The morning when I came clean about my behavior and accepted responsibility for my actions that brought hurt and pain to some people. It was my lowest morning. But then you did it. You took your faith seriously and put into action what you believed. You forgave me. You touched me. Like Jesus placing his hands on the lepers, you placed your hands on me. You came to me and you meant it. In the sanctuary, in that room designated for worship, we not only embraced each other but we embraced Christ.
Grace became tangible for me at that time. Grace became more than some theological idea and became real. Did you know that you can smell Grace? It smells like the perfume of old ladies, the cologne of men, the different laundry detergents we use and the smell of cough drops and gum. You can’t smell it unless you are in the midst of a Grace moment. It overwhelmed me from all of the hugs and tears and handshakes that you gave me in that moment. Thank you. Thank you for risking. Thank you for forgiving. Thank you for touching. Thank you, Bob, for taking that long and lonely walk up the aisle to stand by my side.
My heart is heavy because of how I wronged myself, my family and you. My heart is heavy because that is not how I wanted my time with you to end. My heart is heavy because we never got to celebrate the years we had together. My heart is heavy because I still feel like I let all of you down. My heart is heavy because I never got to tell your kids how sorry I am, never got to tell them that I love them, never got to tell them to not fall into the trap that I did and never got to tell them one last time that they are loved, beautiful, the Beloved of God and that they have unsurpassable worth.
Yet, my life is good. I know that you love me and have forgiven me. I also know that there are some of you who are glad that I am gone and that there are some of you who have not forgiven me. And that is alright. Not everyone can. I find peace in knowing that God, Kris, my kids, my family and my friends love me, have forgiven me and want me to move on. That is enough. I consider that to be a really good life.
Oh Martins Creek, I love you. I miss you. I thank you. May you find the same Grace extended to you that you have extended to me.