Over the last few weeks I’ve been describing some of the ways I feel I’ve “heard” from God in my life and why I’ve felt God’s leading in my decision to semi-retire this July to 25%. Usually people brag about someone’s effort saying, “They give it 110%.” So yeah, I guess you’ll soon be able to brag about one of your co-pastors saying, “He gives it the full 25%.”

Last week I left off with the church I served in Boulder for 15 years. I had many good experiences with this church, but my time there nearly killed me.

The thing that nearly took me six feet under was the combination of following my calling and not adequately caring for myself. By calling, God has always used me in churches to provoke people to keep growing and changing and not just settle for “okay.” As I try to stick on the heals of Jesus, my work as a pastor has always involved being a disruptor of the status quo. Wherever Jesus is at work, things must change if we are serious about becoming the likeness of Christ on earth.

By calling I have been a disruptor of sorts, but by upbringing I am a child of an alcoholic who has spent most of my life being hell-bent to keep the peace at all costs. You don’t need to be a therapist to know that those two qualities are not going to easily live in the same house!

When I was at the church in Boulder, my theological understanding was starting to shift regarding things like how to understand the Bible’s talk about non-heteronormative sexuality, salvation, atonement, hell, biblical literalism versus metaphor, the social justice implications of the teachings of Jesus, and the need for the Church to be the widest possible embrace of God for all people rather than a sanctuary for the saved. But there was no one for me to talk with about these things. At least not within my church, or even within the group of fifty evangelical pastors I met with for prayer every week.

So the churning all went inwards.

Two times I was taken out of the church on a gurney to the ER because of bleeding ulcers. The last time I ended up needing a transfusion of almost half of my blood. A medical journal I read says, “Without treatment measures, your body will completely lose its ability to pump blood and maintain oxygen delivery once you’ve lost about 50 percent of your blood volume.”

To be clear, being a pastor at the church in Boulder wasn’t killing me; there were so many great people there. But being a disruptor by calling and a “keep the peace at all cost” neurotic did.

How did I hear God in that mess? Remember the old song, “Let me hear your body talk, body talk”? C.S. Lewis once described pain as God’s megaphone. My mind can play all kinds of tricks on me but my body won’t lie to me. Thank you, God.

Hearing God Part IV next week!

Nothing but love,

Mark