Out of Exile: Day One – How Did I Get Here?

As promised, here is Day One of a my 40 day journey called: Out of Exilea journey for hurting pastors.

As I said before, exile is how you feel when life throws you a curve and you end up in a place you never imagined you’d be. I’ll define it more in days to come.

I’ve gone through my own share of exiles and come out the other side. More than that, I believe God actually used the exiles to shape me and prepare me for the ministry that I’m enjoying now. Without my times of exile I would probably have a small church of closed-minded, judgmental people, or selling encyclopedias door to door.

To start, let me give you a little context for how I came to learn some of the things I’ll be sharing. I won’t tell my whole story but I want to briefly outline five “exiles” that many of you can probably relate to:

Five of my exiles

  • Scandal: I came to faith in a large upbeat charismatic church in the 70’s.  It fell apart after the pastor was exposed in an affair. The church had no idea how to handle it. It was chaos.
  • Control: I then went to a small church that got started out of the big church. I was convinced that a small church was the answer. But the pastor became paranoid and controlling. I was told to agree with him or leave. I left.

    These were all exiles to me creating a heart ache that drove me to find answers in God and his Word.  

  • Isolation: I was in exile while I was in that church (dealing with the control) and then when I left (dealing with the isolation). Two different exiles. Both painful. We were cut off from our close friends. Something happened inside of me: church suddenly seemed shallow and cliche. As much as I believed in church, nothing felt right.
  • Dysfunction: My wife and I gave up on church and moved into community with two other families. We were confident that we could love each other and live out the faith with so few people involved. Not so much. We disbanded after seven years.
  • Repressed: I reentered church and served as an associate pastor. I didn’t realize at the time that I was wired to be a lead pastor. The church was fine, but serving as an associate when I had a heart to lead in new ways proved to be very frustrating for me.

These were all exiles to me creating a heart ache that drove me to find answers in God and his Word.  I’ll share bits and pieces more as we travel along. Feel free to ask for more detail if it would help in some way.

In a nutshell, what created your exile experience?

I hope you’ll subscribe to this blog and join the journey/discussion.

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8 thoughts on “Out of Exile: Day One – How Did I Get Here?

  1. judithdoran

    Remy, love this post–exiles can be opportunities of tremendous growth if we can get ourselves out of the way. I feel my feet moving into my exile experience even now: assigned to a church of affluence who has just realized they are no longer what they thought they were and the key lay leaders are power-hungry men who view this all as just another problem to be solved, a potential merger to be negotiated, or the sure tolling of the death bells. Sigh.

  2. Lisa

    A_Bible-A- Day put it best in what I have always understood exiles to be: “In the Bible, the word exile is generally used to refer to the forcible removal of a person or nation and relocated. In the Old Testament, the nations of Israel and Judah were exiled on more that one occasion. This was part of God’s planned punishment for their repeated disobedience and turning from him. In many cases, the exiled people are offered a second change to repent and return home. (See 2 Chronicles 6:36-39 for an example of this type of exile.)
    On some occasions, exile can be voluntary, as when Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath (see Matthew 2:13-15).” When I think of “Out of exile” that would be the transformation through repentance, prayer, fasting, worship and savoring His word and the humble return to God’s will and ways.

    I’m understanding that you define, “exile” as a heart ache that drove you to get answers from God and His word that were triggered by events, people and circumstances. Is this right? Not necessarily a punishment for sin. Just a hungering for God.

    In my “exile”, I definitely felt dragged off to a place I hated. I supported my husband but felt the pulpit assignment he accepted was not a good match for our family. Cerebrally, I knew it was in God’s permissible will but I couldn’t embrace it with my heart. In all the stress of a subsequent firing, 6 months of under employment, financial chaos resulting, my hubby’s heart attack, fidelity test, and then a miscarriage (in the space of 3 yrs.)I found many immaturities were revealed in my spirit and hard places in my heart were exposed. I had to learn to trust God all over again. That He was Lord of the Desert and that He could supply all my needs. I wonder if my experience was more of an “exodus” with an exile twist??

    1. F. Remy Diederich Post author

      You’ve shared a lot of good/interesting things here! Great questions too. I will be spending much more time defining exile in days to come. I’m taking very small bites. So, I think I will answer many of your questions along the way. Exile does happen from sin …as in, moral failure. But in one sense, you could say that exile is designed to help you move out of living from your sin nature to a Spirit led life. God uses exile experiences to free us and transform us…if we will let him. Many people just complain and find no transformation.

      As for your exodus to exile experience, that’s what happened to the Israelites, right? The found freedom from Egypt but immediately ended up wandering the wilderness. I’m sorry for the pain you experienced but happy that it brought you to a better place. I hope you will continue to engage in this journey. Thanks.

  3. Anonymous

    I am intrigued and encouraged by this “project” Remy. My apologies for not being more help as promised a month ago. If the opening post and the first two comments are any indicator this forum promises to have depth and feels pretty safe, both of which are important.

    My own story includes both long periods as an exile and then periods as a sojourner or “stranger” which is different and might be a little germane to Lisa’s astute comments. I also have been a “successful” pastor (who as a young man sinned morally and left in public shame but still resided in the same large city because I had children) and then later as a unsuccessful pastor who nonetheless mentored some wonderfully gifted men into ministry. In between, I had to retire myself voluntarily for 20 years as just become a writer because I thought I had a quiet “besetting sin” that excluded me from leadership. In 2010 I would find out that I suffered from a mental illness that was highly treatable. The “besetting sin” (addiction to wine) that had precluded me from any leadership role for decades evaporated with the proper medication. No miracle, just balancing a very gifted and lop-sided brain. I no longer drink. It is not the slightest struggle, nor would it have been all those years had I known.

    But I did not know, and God used me anyway. I walked alongside many a destroyed ex-pastor who had resigned for any number of reasons. I also walked alongside those who had been judged, harshly abused by Fundamentalists, or who had been manipulated. This I did without having to losing Jesus or any commitment to Gospel. It helped that I was already an intellectual and had done a lot of the work. It also helped that my core audience was secular and that I don;t give a rat’s ass if people swear or vent etc.

    There are things you can say, and there are places you can go, NOT being a pastor that are helpful.

    I look forward to reading daily. I remember well the ins and outs of my own journey which started in 1984 (so just 30 years). I would liken it to going to nearby Santa Cruz Boardwalk and starting at one end of the park and getting on each ride one-right-after-the-other; with each one you are trying to “normalize” and say “okay…this is the reality I am going to live with for good”.

    Only it isn’t.

    Over the near 30 years the normative is only relational. I understand, experientially, what Paul means by being content in plenty and in want. What we really need is Him and His presence. What the people we serve need is the same. Looking forward to more.

    1. F. Remy Diederich Post author

      Glad to have you along for the journey. I often tell addicts in treatment that, even though they are full of regret, their addiction and behavior has made them wiser. They know things that others will never know experientially. They need to move on from regret and capitalize on their wisdom to help others. I trust you will have more wisdom to share with us all along the way. Thanks for the feedback. Be sure to invite some of the other ex-pastors you know out there to join too.

  4. Dan S.

    Okay, I’m playing catch up. I’m entering an exile period. The catalyst behind it was a really ugly review by my church chair that was going to lead to more conflict in the months ahead and eventually my dismissal. Come to find out, the review wasn’t fully truthful and did not represent the full leadership of the congregation although it was presented that way. As I reflected on the review, one area that became obvious to me was I was being asked to be an extrovert even though I am wired as an introvert. I realized it was time to discover who I am as an introvert and restore and fully develop my relationship with God in the way that he created me. Over the past 10 years, my soul has been wounded in pastoral ministry. I’m looking forward to my exile experience.

    Remy, as far as your five different exile experiences, control, dysfunction, and repression are all in play with the congregation I serve. For me, control and repression were almost combined in the same person as the church chair didn’t like the direction things were going and instead of working with me and the rest of leadership, starting charting his own course and throwing roadblocks up on anything that didn’t match. The dysfunction came in with other leaders who were apathetic and not committed to taking their leadership seriously.

    I always had a backup plan in place if I found myself needing to make a change. It involved landing back on the family farm I grew up on. We almost made the jump 18 months ago when my son was having some difficulties. A change in school district gave him the scenery change that he needed and he is now doing well. Even this past summer, my wife and I had discussed when we would return home to the farm not realizing that in a few months we would make that decision. When my wife and I made the decision to jump now, it was relatively easy. The anger we’ve had at the situation has been offset by the excitement of my mom who was praying we move back into the general region. She is almost too excited we are moving in with her. We are now discovering she needs more help than what she had let us know in the past. It will be good to be available to her.

    I do expect isolation to come into play as I seek solitude during my exile journey. I find it a fine line between solitude and isolation. Thankfully, I have a wife that won’t allow the isolation. The solitude will come naturally as I work on the family farm to bring it from a state of disrepair to it’s beauty. In a similar way, I will also be brought from a state of disrepair to my God-designed beauty.

    Thanks for the safe place to process, Remy.

    1. F. Remy Diederich Post author

      I’m so glad you jumped into this and went back to the beginning. My hope is that more and more people will use this site to not just learn about exile but share their experience. It’s cathartic to share it and enlightening to read what people say. It’s always interesting to me how you can often look back and see how God prepared someone in advance for a move they didn’t anticipate. I feel a sigh of relief just reading your story…feel the judgment fall away, the earth under your feet as you return to your farm and hear the joy in your mom’s voice as she looks at you across the dinner table. Bittersweet time. Thanks.

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