For the past eight years, I have been the associate pastor at my local church, but that all came to an end a month ago after I confessed my struggle with alcohol to the church’s elder board. Within a few days of my confession, I had officially resigned and, that Sunday, my resignation was announced to the church body.
The time leading up to my resignation was plagued by a series of starts and stops in regards to drinking. I knew when I drank, I drank too much, but my mind kept telling me each time I started drinking that this time it would be different. It never was. I could never drink just one night. I could never drink just one drink. When I drank, I always wanted more.
Throughout my addiction, I was largely alone for one simple reason:
I was afraid.
Live By Fear
I’ve never considered myself a person driven by fear. Any time my actions were largely driven by fear, I’ve always had a reason for it. In each instance, there was a reasonable expectation of danger causing my fear. My actions weren’t reactionary or emotional, but always very intentional.
The past month of reflection has caused me to realize just how much of my life was actually driven by fear.
- I knew that should confess.
- I knew that I would council anyone else to confess.
- I knew that was absolutely the path to restoration and healing for myself, my ministry, and my marriage.
But, I was afraid. And, when we’re afraid, we’re far more likely to listen to deception. So, I listened to the lie in my head telling me that I could overcome my struggle on my own.
To be fair, my fears weren’t entirely irrational.
- If I confess to the leadership, won’t I lose my job?
- If I confess to the leadership, won’t my reputation be damaged?
- If I confess to the elders, how will I provide for my family?
- If I confess to the church, isn’t it possible some people will leave the church over my hypocrisy?
- If I confess to my students, isn’t it possible some students’ faith will be rocked permanently?
- If I confess to the church, how will my ministry continue with my sudden disappearance?
Each of these questions rattled throughout my head whenever I considered confessing to the elder board. So, I struggled with my sin alone. With each passing day, the narrative my imagination concocted of what would happen if I confessed my sin grew even more dramatic:
- Would I lose all of my friends?
- Would I lose my entire reputation?
- Would my family spiral out of control?
At the center of each of my fears was pride. There were two central themes within my fear, (1) I need people to think about me a certain way, (2) I’m in control of things right now. So, I lived in secret to perpetuate a false reputation and live based on the lie that I’m in control.
Live in Grace
Now, I’m on the other side of confession. The story of my secret struggle with sin has been revealed to my church, my family, and my friends. While I’m still early in the reconciliation process, my family and my church are feeling the consequences of my actions. The last month has been a virtual stream of non-stop meetings with people trying to understand what happened. However, these meetings haven’t been out of anger or rejection, but of love.
Did I lose my “job?”
Yes. As a pastor, the biblical authority for my position came from the biblical office of an elder. Based on the qualifications of an elder in Titus 1, I had disqualified myself from my role.
Was I rejected by anyone?
Absolutely not. The recurring theme throughout this process has been one of love and grace. Our church, our family, and our friends have all been extremely supportive of my immediate family, myself, and my healing process.
The narrative of rejection that fear put in my head was a lie straight from Satan. It kept my sin in secret where it could grow. It caused distance in my marriage, and it prevented my healing. The truth was that confession would always bring grace and healing, not rejection.
The silliest lie I believed was that somehow, living controlled by alcohol and fear meant that I was in control. Instead of trusting my life, my reputation, and my future to Christ, I trusted it to my deceived mind and fear. In doing so, I cost my family years of living in freedom.
God was always in control. Christ had already forgiven my sin on the cross. Grace was always available to me.
Fear blinded me to truths I’d preached countless times. Grace awakens us to healing and forgiveness.
[Originally I was thinking about stopping posting here in light of recent events. However, I think I would like to use this space to share my experience and thoughts in the good and bad times. Really it’s me processing a lot of thoughts and emotions in written form.]