A friend's faith journey: Phillip Slaughter, Part 3
This is the third post in this special blog series by Phillip Slaughter. I'm deeply thankful for his humility and transparency as a minister, sharing his faith journey. It's not easy to be so self-revelatory when you are caught in the "in-between" of ministry.
November 22, 2016
I know Jeff Noble is probably thinking I should just start a blog already.)
If you are unaware of our current situation (job hunt) please read my post from 8/4/16. If you want the very short version of the following post... God is good, and we still do not know where/when we are moving. If you want details...
Some people prefer to only reveal the positive side of life, and others only reveal the negative. My life has always been an unbalanced mix of both. I would like to share an honest evaluation of the past three months. How can I describe our sojourning? We have constantly experienced simultaneous feelings of hope and doubt, joy and depression, relaxation and impatience, time needed and unwanted, faithfulness and faithlessness, deep maturity and brokenness, confidence and fear.
I will try to avoid hyperbole, but it is difficult to overstate the significance of how God has grown/changed us during this time (especially the past few weeks). I do not feel like the same person who began this pursuit a few months ago.
What has been good?
God continues to provide for us financially. Rosie and I have tried to live frugal lives over the past several years. Living below our means prepared us for this season. In addition, ABSC's generosity over the past few years allowed us to save for this season. Rose continues to earn her normal income, and I regularly earn some income through preaching/teaching. We rarely spend a penny on anything we do not need. Also, God has provided generously in unexpected ways. Health insurance has been the only difficult expense, but we all know about that.
Time with family. For over five years it was common for me to run from the moment I woke up until very late at night. At the beginning of this year I spent 30 of the first 90 nights away from Rose and the kids (out of town and even the country). Imagine going from that pace to home almost every day and night. It took some adjusting, but it has been incredible.
Time to reflect. I'm weird. I can sit in silence for hours just thinking about life, God, the Bible, science... pretty much anything I find interesting. I have studied more during this season than any other season in my life. I have questioned the validity of assumptions in my worldview that I now believe were misguided. In all this my faith and love for God has increased exponentially. I believe intellectually wrestling with these concepts will help me to actively be more like Jesus. Time will tell.
Rooting myself in God. Sometimes our identity gets wrapped up in our jobs, family, church, denomination, politics, etc. We forget who we are (if we ever knew) and become mirrors of the aforementioned units rather than being the individuals whom God created us to be. This looks healthy when we reflect their strengths, but ugly when we reflect their weaknesses. Thankfully, God has surrounded me with some incredible people to emulate. However, sometimes the beliefs and actions of those people do not reflect Jesus. God has challenged me to question every inherited/learned belief and characteristic to make sure it completely aligns with Him.
Meeting new churches (or at least their pastor search committees). We have met many wonderful people over the past few months. We have talked to many churches and connected with some more than others. We thought more than once that we knew where we would move. Once, the church decided to go with someone else, and a couple of times God would not give Rose and I a peace about proceeding. I think I would have enjoyed being at most of the places we have encountered.
Support from family/friends. We have been overwhelmed by the number of people praying for us and recommending churches to us. People contact us regularly and tell us they are praying. Last week, on a particularly difficult day, I contacted Brandon C. Massey, Austin West, and Michael Pettiette to ask for prayer. They had all three already prayed for me that day. We have probably received 25 phone calls from churches we have never heard of because a friend gave them our information (Ryan Scantling gave it to 23 of those churches... that last number might have been an exaggeration). Many people have given me a listening ear and wise advice (Michael Clayton, Brett Lee and Jared Farley). I could tag many more who have supported us in some way... like Ben Coulter who constantly checks in on me.
What has been difficult?
Waiting! Every day that passes I go through the internal struggle of wondering why the wait, when will we know, and where will we go.
Vanity. I deeply care about what others think (whether I should or not). Every time a church says no thank you or we say no thank you I almost immediately think about what other people will think.
Pride. I loathe when people pity me. My pride wants everyone to see how great my life is (even if it is in shambles at that moment).
Stuck in the middle. Rose and I feel we cannot commit to many things/people right now because we assume we do not have much more time where we are.
Unrealized hopes. There have been a few times when we thought it would work out. When plans changed (whether the church's decision or ours) it hurt. Against all advice and wisdom we started investing our hearts in a place before we arrived. Recently, we felt convicted to stop talking to a church that had almost everything we wanted in a church. It was heartbreaking even though we knew it was right.
Loneliness. Most of my daily/regular encounters of my adult life (apart from Rose and the kids) have been tied in some way to my job. When I left the job those encounters stopped.
Obsessiveness. My analytical nature can be incredibly helpful and enjoyable at times. It can also eat at me like a cancer.
Faith. No doubt I love God more than I ever have. No doubt I am more mature than I have ever been. No doubt I still waver every day of my life. Trusting and obeying God can be hard.
I'm weird. I don't think I am like most ministers. Finding a church as weird as me has proven difficult.
Irrational fears. For example, I see the respect and love in Rose and the kids' eyes every day, but there is still some crazy part of me that wonders if this season of wandering makes them feel differently.
I thank God for this season, but there are also times when I question him. I love my life, but there are moments of despair. I truly want to be a great man of faith, but most of the time I will settle for faith the size of a mustard seed. I am truly trying to be content where I am. Even if that means I keep sojourning... But I really hope that is not the case. ï¿¼ðŸ˜¬