Occasionally, Earl and I believe that we know exactly what God’s plan is for us. So when we determined that retirement from our denomination was our course of action according to the will of God, we submitted our retirement date to coincide with the expected change in the definition of marriage that had been approved by the General Assembly and subsequently ratified by a majority of Presbyteries. That date is June 21, 2015. We also made it clear to our church that we were not retiring from ministry, but only from a denomination of which we were in disagreement.
But what we gave as the date that God had for us was changed into an earlier date – leaving the church on October 31, 2014 – about 8 months ahead. We were heartbroken to leave so much earlier than we had anticipated. We love the people in our congregation. We had really wanted to help the church to respond more faithfully to the Gospel and to be unified by Christ, not split into factions driven by the sweeping changes initiated by our denomination.
Then to top it all off, during all of these struggles we faced, Earl was informed that his mother had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and that his son was in dire need of his help, support and love. Yet by leaving earlier than we had planned, Earl has been able to take some time to be where family members needed him the most. God worked all things – even wrong things – towards the good, (Romans 8:28) But also confirmed are Isaiah’s words, “The LORD Almighty has sworn, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen.” (Isaiah 14:24)
We not only took a step of faith by retiring from our congregation, but we took a huge leap in our belief that God and God alone would see us through not only the loss of our church, health and life insurance, income, personal illness, and family illness, but also the sense of a loss of purpose. Yet, we also knew that God couldn’t possibly be done with us spreading His Word.
After a difficult move back to Georgia, I felt that it would be ideal for Earl to take a year off so that he could decompress, refresh and deal with the family issues that had arisen. He had been beaten up emotionally and not only was he affected mentally by the challenges that he had faced, but it had also had an effect on him physically. So, I planned a retirement dinner with close friends and family for him for his very first day of retirement, November 1st.
I also scheduled a vacation to Spain at the end of December to get his mind on history and begin relaxing him and allowing him to start taking it easy.
Yet within 5 weeks of “retiring,” the Lord called us right back to Charleston and gave us a new church plant and pastorate: the Charleston Presbyterian Church! (part 3 of this series)
2 Samuel 7:19
And as if this were not enough in your sight, Sovereign LORD, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant–and this decree, Sovereign LORD, is for a mere human!