For you had little before I came, and it has increased abundantly; and the LORD has blessed you wherever I turned. But now when shall I provide for my own household also?”
The title of this devotion will make absolutely no sense to you if you missed the devotions from Wednesday and Thursday. So, let me supply a bit of context. I’ve been using the developmental theory of Daniel Levinson to reflect on the story of Jacob when he wants to leave his boss and father-in-law, Laban, and “provide for his own family.” In yesterday’s devotion, I shared a bit of my own BOOM (“become one’s own man”) experience and how I sought God in the midst of it. Today, I want to talk about how my boss and mentor at the time responded to my desire to leave his team and become the pastor of my own church.
Early in 1991, while I was working at Hollywood Presbyterian Church under the leadership of my boss and mentor, Lloyd Ogilvie, informal conversations with Irvine Presbyterian Church became serious. They were looking for a senior pastor and I was increasingly interested. During that time, I began to feel a strong desire to “become my own man” in my professional life, to borrow Levinson’s phrase. I was in the middle of BOOM.
Because Lloyd was both my boss and mentor, even a father figure to me after the death of my own father, I knew I had to tell him about the possibility of my leaving his staff for Irvine. But I was terrified of the possibility that Lloyd might take this personally, more as a rejection of him than something I needed to do in faithfulness to whom I was becoming as well as the Lord’s call on my life. I dreaded the thought that I might hurt Lloyd or open up a breach in our relationship. So I wrote him a long letter, explaining everything that had been going on in my life and what I was feeling and thinking about what it meant.
A couple of days after I sent the letter, I heard from Lloyd’s secretary that he wanted to have breakfast with me later in the week. As that meal approached, I felt extremely nervous, hoping for the best, fearing the worst, and praying like mad. When we met, Lloyd was cordial, as always. But soon after we sat down for breakfast, he got right to the point. “I want to talk about your letter, Mark,” he said.
“Okay,” I gulped.
“I need you to know that when I first got your letter I was very disappointed. You know how much I value you and depend on you as a pastor on my team. I did not want to lose you and I wondered what you were feeling about me. But as I prayed, and I as I talked with my wife, and as I read your letter several times, God helped me to see what’s really going on with you. So, Mark, I want you to know that I do not want you to leave the staff of this church. I had hoped you would stay much longer. But you need a new challenge and I believe God will guide you to it. It might be Irvine. It might be somewhere else. Yet I want you to know that I love you. I support you. And I will do whatever I can to make sure you get into just the right place for you to be a senior pastor.”
I can’t even begin to describe what that meant to me. Lloyd gave me one of the greatest blessings of my life. His support and understanding felt absolutely wonderful. And, when the time came, he gave a strong recommendation to Irvine’s search committee. He rejoiced with me when I received the call to Irvine. He gave the charge at my installation service there. And he continued to support me with his love and prayers. In fact, he still does.
What made the difference in Lloyd’s response to me? Surely it helped that he understood something about adult development. Lloyd told me the counsel of his wife was key. But, most of all, Lloyd deeply believed that, in the end, even those of us who have “become our own man” are subordinate to the One who is Lord of all. As Lloyd sought God’s guidance, as he submitted to the Lord his own hopes for my life, Lloyd found the grace to support me even at considerable cost to himself. His response to me was shaped by an echo of a prayer we find on the lips of our Lord, “Not my will, but thy will be done.”
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Have you ever been in a situation like mine with Lloyd Ogilvie? Or have you ever been on Lloyd’s side of the conversation?
Did you experience God’s presence in this situation? If so, in what way?
Do you need God’s help today in your relationship with your boss? Or in your relationship(s) with those you supervise?
Gracious God, I thank you first of all for Lloyd Ogilvie, for all the ways you have used him in my life. Thank you especially for giving him wisdom and grace as I was beginning to “become my own man.” Thank you for his love and support both then and always.
[You may want to thank the Lord for someone who has been a special mentor to you in your work and faith.]
Lord, help those of us who supervise others, help those of us who mentor others, to be attentive to what you’re doing in their lives. And when the time comes when we need to support the leaving of one we’d rather not lose, give us the grace to do so. Help us to see not just the work before us but the wider work of your kingdom.