A little over a year ago, I found myself in a situation that I never thought I would be in. I was the assistant pastor at my church and part of my responsibility was being business manager. I had abused my church credit card for personal expenses and I was discovered. I still remember that day like it was yesterday. I was devastated, angry, embarrassed and a whole gambit of other emotions. I felt like I had hit rock bottom and wasn’t sure which way to turn. My life was falling apart around me.
I had a choice to make. Did I want to run away, not deal with the situation, and just leave my church family? Or did I want to accept the gracious process of restoration that the Wesleyan denomination offers and work on healing and my relationship with God? Running away would be easy. But I kept hearing God’s voice telling me He called me to ministry. If I run away, I would not be following his will for my life. And I kept hearing him saying, “My grace is sufficient for you in your time of weakness.” Well, I felt weak. I wanted and needed God’s grace so desperately so I gave in.
I had to meet with the district superintendent and confess what I had done as well as the Local Board of Administration. I was so afraid of how they would respond to me. I remember the anxiety I felt was overwhelming. What was I going to say? Would they be angry with me? I was so amazed after the meeting. The district superintendent as well as the board was so gracious and forgiving. Don’t get me wrong. They were disappointed with me and what I had done, but at the same time, they showed me God’s grace and offered me a way to be restored.
Instead of running away, I took the hard road and agreed to the restoration process.
After much prayer and conviction from God, I asked the lead pastors if I could go before the church to confess what I had done. I wanted to be the one that shared with my church family what I had done and to ask for their forgiveness. After I shared, with much difficulty, the congregation was invited to come up and lay hands on me and pray for my upcoming journey of restoration. During one of the services, a picture was taken from behind me and showed almost everyone out of their seats and gathered around me for prayer. That picture stayed with me over the past year to remind me of God’s grace, my church family accepting me and what I had done, and the grace and forgiveness they had given me. I was so blessed by that picture and their love and support. I was so blessed by my church family.
As I began the restoration process, I was given a great support team to help me through this process. The district assigned a counselor to meet with regularly, a spiritual mentor, and an accountability partner to meet with monthly. I must say, it was difficult opening up at first and dealing with things from my past, but I wanted to heal, learn why I did what I did, and I wanted to become the person that God wanted me to be so he could use me for his glory. I was very blessed by this team of people that came alongside of me, without judgment for what I did, and gave of their time to help me heal.
One of the first things I knew that I needed to do was put spending time reading God’s Word each morning as a priority. I began reading my Jesus Calling devotional and 15 Minutes with God each morning. After reading, I spent some time meditating on what I read. I also had a desire for many years to journal each day, and I forced myself to begin writing about what God was speaking to me through his Word as well as the meditation. There were many days in the beginning that I felt like giving up on the process because it was too hard. But as I spent that time each morning, God continued to remind me that his grace was sufficient, that his forgiveness was for me, and that I was his daughter whom he loved. This saved me on those days that I felt depressed and wanted to just give up.
I also began working through a book with my counselor called Healing From Your Emotions and working a 12-step program with my accountability partner. I had been involved with a 12-step program at my church for about seven years. I began attending and eventually was co-leader and led groups as well as meetings. I realized that even though I had been involved in this program, I really did not fully work my steps. There was still a lot of hurt that I never dealt with. I always had this attitude that “it is what it is and there’s nothing I can do to change it so just let it go.” I finally was encouraged to bring those issues out and deal with them in a healthy way with a counselor and accountability partner helping me through it. I cannot begin to tell you how freeing it was to finally heal from those past hurts. I am so grateful for both of these people that allowed God to use them and for God helping me to work through those issues.
At the end of the year’s process, the district approved for my credentials to be restored, I was given my position back at church as assistant pastor, and I am now leading the women’s ministry and grief support ministry. I was given the opportunity to stand before the church once again at the end of this process to thank my church family for the continued love and support during the past year. I am so grateful that our denomination believes in healing, restoration, forgiveness, and supporting pastors when they fall. I’m grateful for my team that gave of their time to help me work through this process. I am most grateful that God kept speaking to me to work through this process and not give up. I pray that other pastors will take advantage of this process if the need arises. Thank you for allowing me to share.