This Sunday, we celebrate the call on Deacon Lance Williams’ life to ordained ministry as Priest. What encouragement we can find in hearing one another stories- may we be blessed and encouraged by Lance’s words.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Rom. 11:33-36).
The call of ministry in my life has been filled with the script of long waiting, painful loss, and glorious restoration- all against the backdrop of God’s grip on my life. Throughout this journey, I fought hard against self-pity often wondering where God was in the midst of difficult circumstances- losing my wife, Tricia to cancer after 30-years of marriage and being laid off from work that had provided for my family for many years.
Although I wanted to be in full-time ministry, I did not want to be behind the pulpit–even though both my father and grandfather were pastors. As I thought and prayed about what I might do, what God might be calling me to- two ideas came to the fore. The first, a combination bookstore and coffee house- influenced by my earlier work with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship coffee house ministry. The other thought was to be a hospital chaplain. Although I was experiencing great success in another career in sales, this thought was always with me: “Lord, is this really where you want me to be?” In retrospect, this was indeed the quiet call of God upon my heart and life.
Following the loss of my wife, I found that self-pity sought to cause a great barrier, a veil, between myself and God. Even though I found great satisfaction and peace in God as he enabled me to be of encouragement to my wife as she faced the end of this life, after her passing, it was hard to see this peace-giving God. In prayer after prayer, after prayer I would see not just a barrier, a veil, but a cold concrete wall. I can’t come up with any particular instance or insight that lifted me out of this “self-pit”. I have never disavowed my relationship with God. As I mentioned, this was an inward struggle. I would say that my faith was not strong enough to see through the “concrete wall”, but it was strong enough to keep me seeking, clinging to Him. Yet, in all truth, it was not me who was doing the clinging, it was God who had the grasp, and He would not let go.
Before Tricia’s home-going, she told me a few times that she wanted me to re-marry. I told her in no uncertain words that I would not desire nor need to do so. I had our four wonderful children, and a career, and I would be just fine. But in addition to the veil her leaving placed between me and God, it also left a hole in my life I had no idea would be so dark and deep. I have not experienced in my entire life such a huge change in thought and feeling as I had on that particular issue—for after three years of living in that dark deep hole, God introduced me to Laura. God has blessed me beyond all my expectations. Much to my joy God has given me, in Laura, a wife who from our wedding day 12 years ago has been a wonderful companion a true soul mate.
Four years following my marriage to Laura, on April 30, 2009, after over 35 years of employment with the same company, and never seeing a layoff, I was just that, laid off- permanently! This layoff was in some ways even more devastating than the loss of my wife. I was in Cleveland, Ohio, (which can be depressing in and of itself), and I was told by the president of the company that this was simply a product of the economy and was in no way a reflection on anything I had, or hadn’t done.
It is very hard to see God’s love through these types of painful, dark experiences. But knowing that now, experientially, I want very much to be there for others; to help them see that the love of God is both transcendent, yet immanent, and brings us through. I believe that this is part of the way God has called me; by putting these desires in my heart- this is the glorious restoration.
I want to answer the call. When the sick say to Him, “…heal me, for I have sinned against you!” (Ps.41:4b), I want to be available and sent by Him to encourage that person, and to administer whatever medicine or treatment He prescribes. When He tells a person, “…I will heal your faithlessness” (Jer.3:22a), I want to be available and sent by Him to administer the healing balm. Or, if it is simply or truly a physical injury or emotional loss that has placed a person in need, I want to be there to help.
Peace and Blessings.
~ Lance Williams
Weekly Email for Lent 4 March 11, 2018