I have been there.
I have been bullied by power-obsessed parishioners, then gaslighted by a senior pastor who denied the bullying was happening.
I have been left with few advocates – whose voices were diluted in a sea of people who either actively opposed me or didn’t know what was going on – even as I was forbidden to advocate for myself.
I have been afraid of what would happen to my vocational future if I got let go and if I resigned, even as those were my only two options.
I have faded away into a congregation’s ether when no one wanted to announce my departure, because then the folks caught off guard would start asking questions.
I have endured a last lunch I didn’t want with a staff that refused to back me, at which the senior pastor poo-pooed my next steps in ministry.
I have worried about my family’s ability to pay the bills, having just purchased a home, when my income went away.
As I said, I have been there. And it sucks beyond words.
But this lowest point in my career was also the beginning of my rising.
I learned from the missteps I’d made while also refusing responsibility for others’ bad behavior. I continued the work of shifting my pastoral identity from a job title to my unchanged sense of call. The shape of that call deepened and sharpened, making the approaching points on my professional trajectory crystal clear. I sought training for those next steps, loading up my ministry toolkit. I was going to be more discerning, more wise, and more prepared emotionally and spiritually for the next opportunity to serve.
As a result, the years of ministry since I found myself prostrate on my office floor have been exponentially more fruitful than the years before that moment. I feel more creative and impactful and I’m having more fun.
Who knows? I might find myself facedown again. But I have learned that there is life after noting carpet impressions on my face. I will thrive again, God willing and with God’s help. You can too.
So, when you’re ready, peel yourself off the floor. Let others help you stand back up, because we don’t rise on our own. And follow your call from God into what is next for your gifted, amazing self.