I am on a family leave of absence from serving as a pastor in the United Methodist Church. I asked for this leave to address issues in myself that were hurting my self, my family, and my ministry. I am in my ninth month of leave at this point. I foresee being on leave for at least another twelve months.
I am glad to say that I am doing much better, and my wife and two boys are doing better too for the efforts Tammy and I both are putting into our marriage and family. Still, I cannot help but feel as if I am in hiding. Some people ask me about my "sabbatical." Well, it is not a sabbatical. This is more of a cave into which I have crawled and in many ways, I do not want to come out of the cave. But, I am beginning to wonder - how long can you stay in a cave before you have become the cave? How long can you just stay in hiding?
Honestly, I do not feel worthy at this point to come out of the cave. As one who once had a voice, I feel like I have given up my right to speak. As one who once was a leader, I want to now just hide in the cave hoping no one asks, "What are you doing in there?"
Lazarus was four days dead when Jesus arrived at the front of the cave where his body was laid. Jesus asked that the stone be moved and he called to Lazarus in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" When Lazarus, still wrapped in burial clothes, emerged from the tomb Jesus said to the others, "Unbind him and let him go." (John 11:38-44)
My mistakes drove me into hiding, and, yes, I have died several deaths in this process. Now my fear and shame seem to hold me here. I do not want to stay in hiding forever, but I am not sure how to walk back into the openness of day. In some ways I am waiting for a voice to call to me, "Andrew, come out." I am waiting for someone to say, "Unbind him and let him go."