In transition a lot of things are left behind, and things that were once nailed down, seem to be floating in the air, unsecured. You’re not sure where they will land. One of the things that is often left behind is one’s professional identity. I’ve been a pastor for thirty-three years. I’ve identified myself as a pastor. People have called me “Pastor West.” (They’ve called me other things as well, but that’s another story!) Although I’m no longer a pastor of a local church, I still think of myself as a pastor. It’s that ingrained, but I know that I’m not a pastor in the way that I was before. This period of transition has given me pause to consider the difference between one’s professional and one’s personal identity.

In transition relationships that were once well-defined and secure, become unglued, particularly if those relationships were more professional in nature than personal. We see this in Jesus’ public (professional) ministry. Over time, his popularity grew. Crowds followed him and adored him, though only a few truly believed in him. At one point he withdrew from the crowd because he perceived that they wanted to make him king. He had become that popular. The next day, they caught up with him on the other side of the lake. This is what he said to them: “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” (John 6:26) These were people who saw Jesus in terms of what he could do for them. They saw him professionally. They didn’t know him personally. We see this when Jesus entered Jerusalem. The adoring crowds lined the street as he came into the city riding on a donkey. They waved palm branches and shouted out praise. But his popularity plummeted when he was arrested, put on trial, and crucified. They concluded that a crucified Jesus could no longer do anything for them. How wrong was that?

It was a fearful time for those few who knew Jesus on a personal level. Their love for him was put to the test during Jesus’ transition from public ministry to dying Savior. His resurrection, however, affirmed their fragile faith and rewarded their sincere personal love him.

In public life, not everyone who says they love you, really love you. That’s a hard lesson to learn. But the flip side is very sweet – very sweet indeed! I have been reminded during this transition that there are at least a few people in my life who love me no matter what. They don’t love me because I have a public position or title. Their love has never been about that. They love me at a deeply personal level, which has nothing to do with my professional life. When I left the pastorate, these relationships stayed nailed down. They didn’t budge. My wife, Elliott, has never based her love for me on my public identity. My children, my extended family, and my true friends have never based their love for me on my professional status. Their love is a true love.

Transition means change, but it doesn’t mean everything changes. I am so grateful for those special people God put in my life who continue to love me no matter what. I am blessed!

“Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:8)

 

9 Responses to “Lessons Learned in Transition (So Far!) – Love”

  1. Rita said

    Add my name to the list of those who love you no matter what! 🙂

  2. Johnny said

    Love can live through any and all storms of life.
    If not always in total agreement, always totally committed to the loving fellowship we share.

  3. Rosa Law said

    you will always be Pastor West to me, not because of a position in any church, but for the teachings about our Lord and Saviour. Thank you.

  4. Iphone 5 said

    It is a superb ideas particularly to people new to blogosphere, temporary and precise information… Many thanks for sharing this 1. A need to study report.

  5. Preston and Brenda West said

    We love you and have thought of you as such a great pastor and friend for us. Your heart and maturity deeply reflects the love of Christ. Love and hugs from INDIA
    Sure would love to get our hands on that new book. We will wait till we are back in the states to get it.

    • Hal said

      Hey, cousins! So glad to hear from you and thanks for those very kind words. Love working both ways here. Y’all are in my heart and prayers. Send me your mailing address and I’ll send you a book. Or, you can get it online. Blessings in him!

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