I had a dream last night:
Lisa and I and our family are in a distant place. We have become a part of that community. There is a man there who is mixing some kind of concoction. He says that it is a detoxifier. We learn that it is in actual fact a toxic substance that will cripple us and eventually kill us. There are so many people in authority who know about this but they are unable because they are unwilling to do anything about it. There are many people, mostly beautiful young women, who are emotionally trapped there. We perform a rescue/escape. Lisa and¬† I are trying to convince this one young woman to escape with us. She is already crippled in her right leg and walks with a severe limp. She doesn't want to escape. She is too dispirited to even try. I pick her up by the hand and we help her escape. But she is crying the whole time. She doesn't want to be helped. We return with our family and some of the people to our old home. We are welcomed back by old friends. Lisa is talking to the young crippled woman who is so demoralized and despondent, trying to encourage her to let it go and embrace her new freedom.
I wrote this dream down as soon as I woke up because I knew exactly what it was referring to. In 2002 I was invited to join a major international ministry, Streams International Ministries, in New Hampshire. My task was to plant a church in New London, not only to provide pastoral care for the Streams staff, but to establish a renewal type of church in that area. We were invited by the director of Streams, John Paul Jackson. We had known each other for years. He had been a guest speaker at some of our conferences, and he expressed an appreciation for our style of pastoral ministry. Even though Rothesay Vineyard, and we, were heartbroken by our separation, we moved our family to New Hampshire in August with a lot of excitement and anticipation. Lisa and I felt we were moving into the fulfillment of our wildest dreams.
Within a couple of weeks I knew it wasn't going to work. There was a great deal of tension between the director and myself. How does a charismatic leader of a ministry and a pastor hired within that ministry integrate their differing philosophies of ministry without creating conflicting loyalties between the people they oversee? I discovered that I wasn't really allowed to pastor. I was expected to be a kind of chaplain that kept the troops happy. I felt like a supply teacher the whole time. Without going into detail, it became more and more difficult and even impossible for me to minister in this kind of environment. Through a series of intriguing events, I was formally dismissed, along with others, around Christmas time. Others quit also. That's a long story short.
This dream reveals to me that indeed it was, in spite of its appearance, a very toxic and dangerous place. I am glad to say though that many people left around the time we did. But it did cripple many of my friends. They were seriously wounded. They were all damaged in some way, having suffered serious harm with lasting effects. We would've died if we stayed. This is one of the dangers of independent ministries: there's no accountability. There's no protection.
But, on a more personal note, the young crippled woman represents a part of me that is still very dispirited by that whole experience. Even eight years later, I still carry a lot of grief. There's still a part of me unwilling and therefore unable to move on. It made me recognize that the terrible toxicity of that experience has crippled me to some extent, and that I walk with a limp. I still haven't gotten over it. It saddens me to think that Lisa may be burdened with my despondency and that a lot of her time and energy is spent trying to help me recover and embrace my new freedom that is ready for me to enjoy. I am so thankful to the church here, and her elders, for welcoming us back and providing a safe place for us to recover and to move on. We wouldn't have made it otherwise.
I thought I was fully recovered. But it is obvious I still have some work to do.