Thinking Out Loud

May 24, 2010

Your Pastor’s Emotional Rollercoaster Ride

If you’re like most of us, you attended church somewhere yesterday, heard a good sermon, and probably picture your pastor today with his feet up, reading the paper while sipping fruit juice;  relaxing on Monday.   But a pastor’s life isn’t like that; not for a minute.  If physical stress doesn’t weigh heavy, often emotional stress does.

I was going to save this post by Pete Wilson of Nashville’s Crosspoint Church for Wednesday’s link list, but I really want to make sure y’all read it in full.   (Yes, I’m writing from Canada, and I just said “y’all.”  Go figure.)  Besides, it’s a holiday Monday nationally here, and my creative department is shut down for the day!   The picture — which he posted the next day — is Pete Wilson on the golf course with Max Lucado.   I had to retouch it a bit to make sure it wasn’t just a generic guy in a hat!


‘Whiplash’ is a word I’ve used more than once when describing the emotions I often go through as a pastor.

Yesterday was a difficult day.  I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I need to write this now more than you need to read it, so please bear with me. Let me give you a little back story to help you understand.

Over the course of the past two years Brandi and I have had two sets of friends who have experienced the loss of a baby. Todd and Angie Smith who lost their baby after two hours of life and Mike and Holly Phelps who lost their baby late in their first pregnancy.

I can’t even begin to imagine the heavy heartache and deep loss they went through. And while getting pregnant again doesn’t take a way that pain, you can imagine how excited I was to hear that both couples were once again pregnant.

While each couple faced their own unique challenges, they were both on track to have healthy babies. I couldn’t help but think of what a bitter sweet experience it would be for both of them. A glimmer of hope in the midst of the darkness they’ve been walking through.

In the early hours of yesterday morning, in hospitals just two blocks away from each other, both couples had an pre-term delivery.

Yesterday morning I walked into two different hospital rooms. Both scenes could not have been more similar and yet more different.

Both rooms had moms who were laying in hospital beds. Both rooms had dads who were right by the bed holding and rocking a tiny infant.

However, the similarities end there as one baby was breathing and the other was not.

Todd and Angie’s room was full of prayers, crying and pure joy.  There was life.

Mike and Holly’s room was full of prayers and crying, but no joy.  No life.

The whole way to the Phelp’s room I cried. I knew the situation I was walking into. I cried out to God…

How could this happen to them again?

Why God, would you allow this family to endure this pain yet again?

Haven’t they been through enough?

Why God?

I’ve been criticized in certain circles for writing a book called Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up The Way You Thought He Would?, which is about God, crisis and pain.  A book that clearly states I don’t think there are answers to all of life’s questions and complexities.

I dare any one of those critics to stand in the room with this young couple and even try to answer all of the questions they had yesterday as they sit there holding their lifeless child.

I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this as a pastor, but I’m going to anyway… Isn’t it amazing how in a moment like that you so desperately want God near, but at the same time you also feel secretly mad at Him?

  • Reality for Christians often means we have more questions than we do answers.
  • Reality is sometimes lacking the faith that will give us a sustained hope.
  • Reality is even though we know God is with us sometimes we feel completely alone.
  • Reality is even though we believe, we also doubt.

There’s a big difference between trust and understanding. They say trust is what we need when we don’t have understanding. So today I’m praying for trust. A big, huge, helping of trust.

It’s funny but the final paragraph of Plan B says,

I’m asking you to trust that one day faith will win over doubt, that light will win over darkness, love will win over hate, and all things will one day be redeemed. I’m asking you, right in the middle of your Plan B pain, to trust this process that is going on in your life.

I never knew when I wrote those words how much I would need them on a day like today.

~Pete Wilson, pastor and blog-author of Without Wax.

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May 3, 2010

Pete Wilson: An “A” Quality Examination of Life’s Plan B Experiences

I believe that with this single book, Pete Wilson moves outside the circle of American pastors and bloggers and into the arena of people we consider major Christian voices for this generation.

I had a bit of an advantage here.   After years of being aware of Nashville pastor Pete Wilson through his blog, and listening to several of his sermons and video posts, I was able to hear his voice in my head as I read each page.   I’ve been impressed over the years with Pete’s complete honesty and transparency as someone walking the journey of life as we all do, albeit in the set-apart position of vocational ministry.

So I really, really wanted to be included among the 500+ people who are posting reviews of this book today as part of a blitz by the publisher, Thomas Nelson.    The book is Plan B – What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up The Way You Thought He Would? Knowing this was his first time in print having to compete for the attention of North American Christians in a crowded publishing market, I was a little unsure how Pete would fare.

Here’s my review:

This is a landmark book.

Using a large number of examples from the lives of people Pete has pastored in Kentucky and Tennessee; combining in the Biblical examples of David, Joseph, Job, Ruth, and even Jesus; and finally mixing in quotations from some of today’s most popular contemporary Christian authors; Pete delivers a treatment of his subject that would be thorough enough to meet the most rigid academic requirements, but is delivered in a totally grassroots, down-to-earth, unpretentious style.

However…

This is not an easy book to digest.   Life is hard.   This is not a feel-good book with rhyming couplet sayings.   There are chapters that seem to ask more questions than provide answers.   In the end — spoiler alert! — there is no pastoral closing scene with a golden sunset or a rainbow against a blue sky.

If anything, I got the impression that as someone who has been pastoring for just a little over a decade, Pete has had more than his share of being with people at the deepest moments of personal crisis and tragedy.

When I was pastoring in Kentucky, I would often ride with law-enforcement officials after someone had been murdered or killed in a car accident.  The officers liked having me along when they went to inform the next of kin.   I still remember the sick feeling I would get when we pulled into a driveway to do that sad job.  I would think, Inside that house is a family just living their lives, going through the normal routine.  They have no idea how my next few words are going to turn their very life upside down forever.

Not a book for people — including myself at times — who would like to bury their heads and deny that life often presents us with seemingly impossible challenges.  But a book that finds there is hope to be found at the foot of the cross.

I found the overall pacing and writing of the book very similar to another title (from the same publisher) Fearless by Max Luacdo.   I think that fans of Lucado’s writing would find this a very comfortable fit for their library, if they’re open to trying a new author.   I won’t labor the similarities, but they are many.

But I also think there’s another application here:  I think that pastors and counselors should buy this book, read it, and then have an extra copy handy to give to people who suddenly find themselves in the valley.    This is an author who understands, who gets it.

Finally, I think there’s yet another direction for Plan B, which is hinted at in an eleven-page set of study questions at the back:  This would be an excellent group study.   We all experience unique trials and we all process these difficulties differently.   What better healing process than to get people sharing some of the darkest times in their lives with others who have had, are having, or will have similar times where God seems conspicuously absent?   Combining the first two chapters also yields a viable 13-week adult study curriculum.

Those of us who’ve enjoyed Pete’s blog, Without Wax, or listened to sermons at Cross Point already knew what Pete Wilson was all about.   I believe with this single book, Pete steps into the circle of people we consider significant Christian voices in North America and beyond.

Plan B – What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up The Way You Thought He Would? by Pete Wilson (Thomas Nelson, 244 pages paperback, May, 2010)

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