Thirty-eight years! It’s that long since I’ve seen some of the colleagues with whom I worked in the Los Angeles ghetto for ten years.
After a painful breakup/firing/split, I left not only the ministry but the city, eventually returning to my roots in Northern California.
This breakup impacted me in ways I imagined divorce felt like. It hurt! Misunderstandings and controlling leadership prevented my former friends from communicating with me. I felt isolated, cast off, forgotten.
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I knew nothing about setting up a corporation. But I worked with a man who had the vision for an inner city ministry, and I handled the details. With many calls to City and State, we were established as a nonprofit organization. I worked closely with the President on the corporation’s implementation, guidelines, fundraising, and communication. I coached foreign workers on applying for the appropriate work visas and, on one occasion, spoke directly with the immigration official at the Vancouver airport who was not going to allow a young woman to board her flight to LA. But after my lengthy conversation with the officer, Nancy arrived to minister with us later that day.
I taught children and teens and lived with other staff women in the LA ghetto. We lived and ministered together and chose to be part of the community we served. We suffered together when someone we loved was hurt, killed, or when our own lives were threatened. This was my second family. And now we were separated for many reasons.
Over the years it took me to heal from the impact of a controlling leader and unrealistic expectations, I prayed that God would somehow bring back some of those friendships. He has done that with some of the most significant peer relationships I had, and I am deeply grateful for the ability to clarify, question, and grow together as we talked in depth about how God used the ministry, and even the control, to teach and build us.
Unfortunately I’m not alone in my experience of burnout.
Others have gone through similar experiences. Controlling leadership that steps into the place God rightly inhabits, and its resulting burnout, can cause someone to lose faith, not only in a specific ministry or leader, but in God himself.
So how do we heal?
We cry. We rest. We look for those areas of personality or conflict that we own, and learn to release those we do not. Some of us write. With time, we learn to forgive.
We seek out people who are ‘safe’; those with whom we can be real who will love without judgment, listen without trying to “fix,” help us laugh and cry with us and accept us where we are at that moment.
We may seek help from friends, pastors, or professional counselors. We breathe out the pain and breathe in, increased understanding.
We look for ways we can encourage others with the strength and comfort God has given us, knowing He wastes nothing, including our hurt.
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.II Corinthians 1:3-5, NLT
And sometimes we reach out at some point and there is a positive response that allows bridges to be built and relationships to jump-start, wobbly at first, then growing stronger as the cords deepen.
So next weekend I’m flying to Los Angeles for a reunion with some of the women with whom I worked on staff, most of whom I haven’t seen in 38 years! Will I laugh? Cry? Probably both, as we remember the good times and the ways God used the ministry, and perhaps grieve over some of the boulders and stones along the way.
Knowing this reunion is happening 38 years after I left Los Angeles gives me great hope that God is still in the business of reconciliation.
Can’t wait to tell you more about our time together!