A bane of existence for Pastors in the Adventist Church is having to move from one location to another. While most Pastors accept getting moved from place to place as a part of what comes with being a Pastor, I believe the longer a Pastor is in ministry and the older he/she gets, the more they dislike that part of ministry.
But it typically does not start off that way. I did not mind my first 2 or 3 moves that I had to make as a Pastor. When I first got hired as a Pastor, I was so excited just to receive a call, I did not care where I was going-just so long as I had a church to go to. Moreover, I had just graduated from Oakwood, I wasn’t married yet (I was engaged and my soon-to-be wife stayed behind to finish her last semester at Oakwood) and I didn’t have very much to pack up except some clothes and a few books.
I suspect the moving part of ministry does not get old until about that 3rd or 4th move. By then, often you have children who have friends that they do not want to leave, a spouse with a career that they are trying to maintain, a house that you need to sell-imagine doing that 10, 12 times or more (ask someone who has been in ministry for the 45 years or so that I have been in ministry how many different cities they have lived in) and you’ll understand that moving is the part of ministry that many Pastors like least.
We are moving into a new office soon-the 32,000 square foot, 2 story Charles E. Dudley, Sr., Center for Regional Conference Ministries, on the campus of Oakwood University. We hope that the furniture company will begin moving our furniture into the Dudley Center as soon as September 23.
Currently, all the things in my current office have been boxed up. A very nice and very efficient former Oakwood classmate, Mrs. Mary Munroe, volunteered to come and help me. Mostly-yea, almost entirely because of her, my office was completely packed up in about half a day.
I had to go through everything in my office and separate the things I needed Mrs. Munroe to box up and what I needed to throw away. I have been blessed in my ministerial career not to have had to move very often, but when we moved the last time, I had 3 main thoughts:
- I never want to do this again. My next move needs to be either to the nursing home, the cemetery or the Kingdom
- Everything that I cannot identify an immediate need for gets thrown away, because,
- I am not moving junk
I suspect who has lived in a place for a long time and is moving somewhere else is surprised to find as they are packing how much useless stuff they have kept for no explainable reason. I remember we moved out of the house we had lived in for 21 years into our present home. I was cleaning out my office and I found a magazine from 25 years ago. The cover was about the Presidential election of that year.
I have no explanation for why I had kept a magazine from 25 years ago, that had since gone out of business, whose cover was about the election of a President that I had not voted for.
But most people keep at least some “junk”. Often we cannot identify any purpose for it. We just hold on to it. It clutters our offices and other parts of our living spaces. We can’t seem to completely let it go.
Just like many of us hold on to physical “junk”, many of us hold on to emotional “junk”. Things that have hurt us, offensive things that have been said to us, things that have been done to us. Things that we can’t seem to let go. Emotional “junk”.
Things that clutter our memories. It is amazing-and sad, I suppose-that we seem to have a greater capacity for remembering the bad things that people have done to us than the good things that God has done for us.
How do you get rid of emotional “junk”? I suspect that in some cases, it will require professional help. The Bible talks about the power of the tongue-and sometimes, that power has the power to destroy. Destroy our self-esteem and our self-worth. Things that took someone 30 seconds to say to us but have never been forgotten by us.
Whomever came up with that expression that people use to say back in the day “Stick and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me”, absolutely did not know what they were talking about. Words can harm and for some people, that harm lasts forever. If that person is you, if you are still storing emotional “junk” that you cannot let go of, seek the help of a Christian professional.
For the emotional “junk” that does not quite arise to the level of the need for professional help, I would like to share-as a non-professional-something that I discovered that was helpful to me when I started feeling my mind becoming cluttered with emotional “junk “from some rather painful experiences.
I found myself constantly reflecting on those painful experiences-the sense of hurt and betrayal. I use an expression-“renting space in my head”-that I use to describe how much I was thinking about painful experiences and the people who cause them.
Except the people who were “renting space in my head” were not actually paying any “rent”; they were just there-mental “squatters”. People who-without being invited- had taken up space in my head and in my thoughts. And the funny thing is that when we allow ourselves to obsess over painful experiences and the people who cause them, we give over to those people a measure of control over our lives.
In the Sabbath School Lesson for this quarter, I read that sometimes God allows us to go through these kinds of crucibles (of course, some crucibles are the results of our own poor choices!) in order to help us to become better people. The hope is that these painful experiences will help us turn to God in prayer-and maybe, through the ugly things being done to us-see some ugliness that God is trying to get out of us. I learned a long time ago: “Anything that makes you pray, is a good thing”.
I also remembered things I had said in the pulpit to others: There is nothing that happens to you that God did not see coming in advance and for which He has not provided a way for you to handle. I just need to stop obsessing over it and let God deal with it. In other words-I needed to let God be God.
So-every time, I found myself focusing on my pain and who caused it-every time I caught myself allowing my mind to be cluttered with emotional “junk”, I would say to myself, “Let God be God”. Sure enough-while it took a while, as I turned my focus on “Letting God be God”, it turned my focus away from man. It really helped me to get rid of some emotional ”junk”.
The last thing that helped me was remembering the need to be more careful in the things that I say-lest I be the cause of the same kind of pain that I had received.
There is an expression for people who collect physical junk; they are called “Pack Rats”. They can’t seem to throw away anything-they hold on to everything.
Don’t be an emotional “Pack Rat”. If you are, ask Jesus to help you to get the help you need to get rid of emotional “junk”. Ask Him to help you to turn your “junk” over to Him. Ask Him to help you to “Let God be God”.