The music pounded out a beat. The nine-piece band and two singers were really letting it go. They sang of God’s goodness. They sang of God’s providence, of God’s peace and God’s justice. I stood there and allowed the music to envelope me. I swayed a little, closed my eyes and prayed. I tried to sing the words, but my voice faltered. I gathered myself, tried to sing again, but nothing would come.
Tears came instead. The music continued, and I could feel a great weight being lifted off of me. I could feel myself letting go of so much tension. Now the tears were flowing freely. Still no words to sing, only a voice crying out, drowned out by the music and the singing – “I’m scared.”
A simple, two-word prayer. Again, I cried, “I’m so scared.” Now a three-word prayer, it was the limit of my ability to articulate what I was thinking and feeling. I reached over to grab my wife’s hand. I squeezed it, held her close and said to her, “I’m so scared.”
It was a lamentation. All I could do was cry out to God in lamentation. I know God is with me. I know that God is good. I know that I can do all things through Christ. I know that nothing will separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Yet in that moment the Holy Spirit was able to break into my heart and allowed me to simply lament. Does it mean that I have any less faith? I don’t think so. It was a powerful and incredibly healing moment.
I’m scared. I’m excited too, but in that moment all I could do was cry, “I’m scared.” I’m scared of going to Liberia for two weeks. I’m scared of 13 hours in a seat not designed for Fat Pastors. I’m scared of leaving my girls. I’m scared of missing their bedtime story. I’m scared of missing their kisses. I’m scared of mosquitoes and infected water. I’m scared of sweltering heat. I’m scared of fugitives and the desparately poor and the contagiously sick. I’m scared of stories of evil and brutality for which my heart is not prepared.
I’m scared of moving to Moline a week after I get back from Liberia. I’m scared of packing up all our junk. I’m scared of getting it all done in time. I’m scared of leaving Chenoa, my church, my friends. I’m scared of leaving behind all that we have built. I’m scared for ministries that might lose momentum. I’m scared of not preaching every week. I’m scared of not knowing every single person I worship with on Sunday. I’m scared of getting lost – not just in a new city, but in the biggest church I’ve ever worked. I’m scared of starting from scratch. Despite this fear, I believe.
I believe I’m going to have an amazing trip. I believe I’m going to be transformed in ways I cannot even anticipate. I believe I will hear stories of hope and redemption that will fill my heart with joy. I believe I am going to build relationship with people that will last a lifetime. I believe that when I get back to Chenoa we will pack up all our stuff on time. I believe that the church in Chenoa will go on strong without me. I believe that the leadership will not lose sight of their mission. I believe that there are tremendous people, opportunities and resources in Moline that will allign well with my talents and passion. I believe that together we will do great work for Kingdom of God. I believe these things, and yet I’m scared.
I sit here and feel both strong and scared at the same time. It is okay for me to be both excited and terrified. It is right, and a good and joyful thing for me to wipe away tears one moment, and then smile wide the next. I’m excited. It doesn’t make me love my family or the people of Chenoa any less. I’m sad. That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy Liberia or Moline.
I’m scared. It doesn’t make me any less of a man. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God. It doesn’t make me a worse pastor. It just means that I’m human. I’m scared, but I move on. I move on with my family. I move on with God. I move on straight into my fear, and that is all that matters.