I raised my ten-year old hand when Paul Lindell, a missionary, came to town. I don’t remember the moment, but my parents let me know years later. It took. I knew in high school that I was going to be a pastor. I was different from the guys I connected with, not mature enough to reach out to them, but they respected me. I was filled with the Holy Spirit the summer after graduation. Praise God for that.
College days were good, growing in the Lord. Under the influence of Hal Lindsey at UCLA, I spent two years at Dallas Seminary. Then I took a year off to teach at a Bible college in Kenya, study in Israel and travel, before deciding that I was homesick. After a summer with family, I headed for my final year of seminary at Luther in St. Paul. It was the worst/best year of my life. I went from the happy, outgoing, young man to the withdrawn, fearful, depressed senior who was supposed to be ordained in a year into the ministry. Didn’t look like it. I was attempting to reach out to my fellow classmates, though it was not easy to connect. They talked about gross things at lunch, yet I still wanted to reach and impact them. B. Mark Anderson, a pastor friend in Iowa, was my pillar during those months. I was sometimes consumed by fear. I was afraid to answer the phone in my room, not sure what to say, and I certainly did not want to lead chapel, the responsibility of every senior once before they graduate. I didn’t want to raise my hand in class for fear I might stutter or say the wrong thing. And yet in my darkness, God drew close to me. I prayed often with those who wanted to be filled with the Holy Spirit, though I don’t remember doing it.
The impact of this difficult year hung with me for years. I got the wind knocked out, and it took time to regain confidence, though I was thrust immediately into full-on ministry the fall after graduation. Being a pastor fit the person God had made me. Little by little He healed me from the darkness, and I had twenty-four rich years at Trinity that included marrying Karen and having six children, before being called to direct Lutheran Renewal.
A year after starting my new role, Dick Denny, lay leader at LR, said to me one day, “Hey, you missed the pastors’ meeting today.” I said, “Yeah, couldn’t be there.” He responded, “You should have.” I wondered why. Seemed like he was getting in my face. I asked why it was so important. He responded, “Many of the pastors said that their lives were dramatically changed when you prayed for them at Luther Seminary.” I was shocked. I couldn’t remember one of them. And yet in my darkness, the light continued to shine. I share this to comfort those who go through dark and difficult times. God is especially near to you in your brokenness. He doesn’t abandon you when you are struggling, and you still shine with the brightness of Christ!