I have been on quite a rollercoaster ride. One I never expected to take, emotionally, physically and spiritually. What transpired wasn’t supposed to happen to me. You see, I was called into full-time ministry by God almost 14 years ago. From the time I decided to embrace that call upon my life and quit running from it, I did my very best to follow Him as closely as I could. Granted, I had my faults and slipped up from time to time, but doesn’t everybody? All of this has lead me to have some very frank discussions with God. On occasion, we even get into a wrestling match here and there (as you might guess, he always wins).
This story begins almost 6 years ago, so bear with me while I take you back and paint a picture.
I graduated from college with a degree in Pastoral Ministry in May of 2005. It was just a month later I took the plunge and said ‘I do.’ The first few months of our marriage was spent in both my parent’s basement and my brother’s basement. We were searching for a job in the church and didn’t want to be tied down to a lease. The first six months of our marriage I spent working Internet Tech Support (definitely not what I went to school for). When I was finally offered a chance to make use of my degree and fulfill my calling as a Youth Pastor, I jumped at the opportunity.
During our first year of marriage we lived with my parents, my brother, moved to a new town, accepted new jobs, and were forced to make new friends. If you’ve been married I don’t have to tell you how difficult that first year of marriage is. Nor do I probably need to tell you the added strain the rest of these transitions put on both of us that first year. On two separate occasions I was almost certain our marriage wasn’t going to survive; but, by the grace of God, it did.
After I had served on staff at the church for about two years, our time to leave had come. The Senior Pastor resigned and retired. And due to financial difficulty, the church was unable to keep me on staff much longer. After much discussion and prayer, my wife and I made the tough decision to pack up the life we knew, move and start over in Sioux Falls, SD. Not only was I not transitioning to a position at another church, I didn’t even have a job when we made the move. To say the move was a leap of faith is probably an understatement; however, God provided everything—as usual.
Once we made the adjustment and got plugged into a church (and I got rid of a bit of the bitterness I had towards God for taking ministry away from me), life seemed to be everything I wanted. Our marriage was doing well, I was helping out with a youth ministry, teaching a Sunday School class, and we made the decision to plant some roots. By this time we had paid off all of our bills (except my ridiculously expensive college degree) and decided the next logical step was to purchase our first home. After spending months looking at hundreds (literally hundreds—I’m kind of picky and OCD) of houses, we finally fell in love. We made an offer on a two-story house built in 1912. After several weeks of going through the logistics of negotiations, inspections, and the tense waiting periods, we finally signed the next 30 years of our lives away. After just a few months I was comfortable with where we were at and felt I was finally ready to have children (did I tell you that she was ready for kids from day one?). From an outsider’s perspective (and even my own) it appeared we had a picture perfect life. We had decent jobs, nice cars, a phenomenal first house (minus the white picket fence) and we even had two dogs. For me, everything was in order, life was going great and I had been blessed with far more than I had ever imagined at such a young age.
Everything seemed like this was going to be the most exciting year of our lives together. We had transitioned to being involved with a new church plant where I, for the very first time, felt I was finally exactly where I needed to be. I was getting more involved in ministry again and was well established at my current job. The future looked promising…and just as quickly as everything began to look like hell.
Just after our 4 year anniversary in June of 2009, our marriage took a turn for the worse. I came home from work to a note on the kitchen counter. My wife apparently hadn’t been seeing things through the same lenses I had. Basically, the note explained how over the course of the previous year, our lives had slowly began heading in different directions. The note talked about how our marriage was a mistake. How the love was never really there and the last 4 years were all based on a lie. I distinctly remember all the emotions and questions I taking over my mind during those brief minutes I read the note over and over wondering how it is she no longer loved me. That evening my whole world fell apart.
When she got home that evening (about 5 hours later), we sat down and discussed everything. She expressed her feelings to me and how I had failed her during the last 4 years of our life. I agreed to several of them and made a conscious decision to work on them and make her priority. I also suggested we get into some counseling; however, she wasn’t ready. We made a commitment to work on the marriage and not let anyone know about this for a period of one month. To put it bluntly, that month was hell. It was obvious our marriage wasn’t going to succeed.
During that month we argued more than we had the previous 4 years. Oddly enough, we also had the longest periods of time we couldn’t even talk to each other or be in the same room as each other (so much for working on things). Throughout that month, a day didn’t pass without me wondering how we got to this point (even today I don’t have that answer). By the end of the month, both denial and depression had set in, I had moved in with my best friend as my wife needed some space to figure out what she wanted. After about a week of that, I moved back into the house. We discussed everything and she decided to move in with a co-worker and begin filing for divorce. Life as I knew it had come to an end.
It was then I couldn’t deal with anything anymore. I had lost over 20 pounds, was getting less then 4 hours of sleep a night and couldn’t find a reason to even get out of bed some mornings. The worst of it was that I was on the brink of giving up on God. After all, he didn’t answer my prayers—at least in the way I thought he should. A large part of me felt God had abandoned me and was no longer reliable. This lead me to the conclusion that if I wanted to make it through this, I needed to take matters into my own hands. After some time and discussion with those closest to me, I finally made an appointment with the doctor, got on some anti-depressants, started some counseling and began eating again. Although I gave up on God, I would periodically get into the Word because I had nothing better to do.
Jumping ahead about 3 months, we signed the divorce papers the day before Thanksgiving (so much to be thankful for there it seemed). From then it was a 60 day waiting period before everything became official. Right around the time I was ready to give up on God, my boss handed me a book to read. Funny enough, the title was “Furious Pursuit.” The premise of the book was how God is always pursuing us (as always, great timing on that one God); even when we don’t feel like he is and even when we may not want him to. I began reading the book and couldn’t put it down. There were so many things that hit home.
It took some time, but I eventually adjusted to my new life. I gained back the weight I had lost, got off the anti-depressants, became somewhat social again, and got a roommate. This wasn’t the life I had pictured, but I was learning to deal with it and make the best. Spiritually, nothing really changed until after the divorce became official January 25, 2010…4 years and 7 months of marriage to the day.
Although I had shut out God for the most part during all of this, I left myself open to friends and the church. But it was now I could see things from a different perspective. I can’t explain how or why, other than getting the final papers signified the closing of one chapter in my life and the beginning of another.
Now, I am able to see things in a completely different light. God never really answered the ‘Why?’ the way I had hoped, but He did give me a lot of other answers. On a different note, I always thought it was cheesy, but that “Footprints” poem really is true. When I saw only one set of footprints through the divorce, I can only attribute it to the fact that God truly was carrying me.
The lessons I learned and the massive strides I have taken in my spiritual life through all of this truly are invaluable—and I wholeheartedly believe I wouldn’t have learned them otherwise.
I feel that because of all of this, I am able, in a weird way, to relate just a little more to the suffering of Christ.
I see God in the people he placed in my life at just the right time.
I see God in the encouragement of friends and family through the roughest patch of life.
I see God through the love and compassion of my church, no matter how imperfect they may be. And I realize now, more than ever, how essential a church really is.
I learned what breaks my heart, breaks the heart of God even more.
I learned—the hard way—we were never intended to walk through any of life alone.
I learned that, unfortunately, it is suffering that unites us the most.
I learned that when God makes the promise to never leave nor forsake you, he intends to keep it.
I learned that my total forgiveness of someone doesn’t really make what happened okay; nor does it say God is fine with everything that transpired.
I learned that God doesn’t waste anything. What Satan intends for evil, God will some day turn into good.
I learned sometimes all God asks you to do is place one foot in front of the other.
And currently, I am learning that God really is in the business of making ALL things new.
I’m able to say that God has never been more real to me than he is today (even in the midst of my doubt from time to time). More and more, I see the faithfulness, love and grace of God in each and every situation, regardless of the outcome. And when I am listening, sometimes I swear that I hear him faintly whispering to me, “Jordan, I’m so sorry. I’m here for you and I love you!”