Friday was an amazing day for me. My last day teaching in KC,MO brought the return of some things I had taken for granted. During lunch, I found that I was actually hungry. The stress of my job robbed me of my appetite, causing me to lose 20 pounds. On Friday night, I hung out with some friends and felt like a normal human being. I was told by said friends that it is good to have Donnie back with us. Finally, on Friday night, I laughed for the first time in a long time. I watched Dumb and Dumber and laughed almost as hard as the first time I watched the movie. My job was literally taking away my life.
Dawson's biological Grandma, Kim, told me that she was watching me whither away. I was whithering away not only physically but emotionally as well. She said that she was watching helplessly as I was emotionally withdrawn from my family. I didn't do so on purpose, but I had nothing to give my family during the few hours each week I was able to be with them. For that reason, I had to break my commitment and walk away from the mission I had joined.
Really though, I had made that decision years ago at a Promise Keepers convention I attended just before leaving for college. At that convention in Indianapolis, I made the commitment to never put ministry before my family. A former pastor would often share his own similar commitment, asking us "what is the point if I save everyone else's kids but lose my own?" And that is where I finally came down in this most agonizing decision I've ever faced.
I have been miserable since I left for training on June 26th. My heart was torn apart as I watched Erin and Dawson walk away at the airport. While the two free days and the single week of normal working hours that I enjoyed upon returning home were wonderful, they weren't enough. With the exception of that one weekend, I have been emotionally and physically detached from my family since June 26th. And while I'm not working now, I'm still pretty detached. I've got to work through the depression and PTSD while rebuilding a healthy and balanced relationship with my wife and son. I have a counseling appointment on Friday to start the healing and rebuilding process.
I spent the past three weeks seeking guidance from a large number of friends and family members. The overwhelming consensus was "this is too much and you need to put your family first." One notable exception however, were my superiors at Teach For America although I'm not sure whether I'll share the ways they tried to influence my decision. So I did it. I walked out on my classroom because I couldn't be the teacher I was expected to be while also being the father my son needs me to be. With that said, Teach for America is a wonderful organization that is working to keep our nation from becoming an apartheid state. But I have learned the hard way that there is a reason TFA recruits young and single people. The demands of TFA are not sustainable for a parent living in the suburbs. I greatly regret that I wasn't aware of that before I signed up.
The haunting question though, is whether or not putting family first is really biblical. Yes, it's very Focus on the Family-esque and North American Christianity-esque but is it biblical? The call to the gospel put forth by Jesus and Paul is much more radical than what our North American Christian culture would lead us to believe. Sure we find ways to explain it away or ignore it, but Jesus did say "“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple."
And Paul was always letting the churches know about the trials he was facing. From 2 Corinthians 11, "24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?"
And Philippians 3, "10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead."
But what about the boy I chose to adopt? What about being able to have friends, laugh and serve in my local church?
It is quite possible I made a bad decision and put my own desires above God's plan to use me up and break me for his Kingdom's sake. It's also possible that this is finally God's answer to my almost 3 year long prayer of, "if you don't want me to leave full-time pastoral ministry, please stop me."
I don't have a lot of answers right now. I know that while I have some leads and some savings, I really need a job. I'm quite sure that 10 years from now I will have some regret for all of this but that I won't regret stopping the 14 weeks I missed out on being a dad from turning into 2 years. I also know that if I am walking away from what God has for me right now that doesn't mean he won't open up another door in the future. I also know that having my family taken away from me has awakened me to the need to love them in a better way.