My cousin’s trembling voice uttered the unthinkable. “Kay, I need to let you know that Wayne took his life this morning.” My knees collapsed under me. “No! How can this be? What happened? Why? What was wrong with him?” My mouth formed tumbling questions despite my mind being frozen in disbelief and grief. Through his tears, my cousin told me his brother-in-law had struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts for some time. His family thought Wayne was truly improving after he agreed to see a therapist.
On the morning of his death, Wayne said goodbye to his wife, Lynn, as she left for work. But Lynn felt uneasy and came home at lunch to check on him, only to find the worst had happened. On the kitchen counter was a note he wrote apologizing for hurting his family, telling them he loved them and explaining that he just couldn’t go on. Wayne made the sure the dog was safe in his kennel before he ended his life.
Raised on the plains of West Texas, Wayne Oglesby was a preacher’s kid who followed in his father’s footsteps. He met my cousin, Lynn, in college and they made a fine team — vivacious, warm, football-fanatic, Jesus-loving folks who pastored small churches for decades.
Wayne is not the only pastor or faith leader to experience mental illness, addiction, financial difficulty and thoughts of suicide. Sometimes the media blares the news of a pastor who dies by suicide, but often, they die quietly, unnoticed by many outside of their church and local community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for every completed suicide in the general population, there are 25 attempts, and thousands more who think seriously about ending their lives. Pastors are not exempt from these statistics.
Wayne devoted countless hours to the duties of a pastor — preaching, teaching, marrying, burying, visiting the sick, showing up in the wee hours of the night for those in need. Every step of the way Lynn was right by his side, working as tirelessly as they could to care for and nurture the congregations they loved. His sons, Rusty and Dusty, knew they could count on their dad to be at countless tennis matches and soccer games, no matter what was happening at church. He was fiercely proud of his boys and frequently told them so.
But over time, his life slowly began to change. Sometimes pastors and congregations don’t mesh well, even when there’s nothing really wrong, and Wayne and Lynn were asked to resign from a church they were serving. For the first time in his adult life, Wayne was no longer a pastor. Still in his late 50s with many years ahead of him, he was rudderless. He had never been great with money management, and he began to overspend, taking on more debt than they could handle. He started drinking too much. He found employment as a chaplain for a funeral home, but it just wasn’t the same as being a pastor.
Depression set in, and he fought hard against the way it sapped his energy and sense of well-being. He often expressed disappointment and confusion on the way his life turned out. The guilt he felt for over drinking and for putting his family’s financial future at stake ate away at his peace of mind.
Who besides his family could he turn to for counsel? Who would provide a safe place to listen nonjudgmentally to his story? Who was there to hold his hand and reassure him that he would be okay? Which former church member could he seek out to give him comfort in his time of need? Who would pastor the pastor? The same spiritual leader who had been there for thousands of church members over the decades now wrestled in secret, feeling despondent, hopeless, and utterly defeated.
Wayne didn’t really want to die. He was trapped inside himself, seeking a permanent way out. But on March, 4, 2010, this kind, loving, dedicated pastor with a West Texas twang concluded that his wife and family would be better off without him. He convinced himself that they would have a better life without his emotional breakdowns, without the stress of his financial mistakes and without the burden of his pain.
He was wrong. His wife, children, grandchildren, friends, neighbours and former church members are not better off without him. The crushing, soul-shattering grief of his suicide changed them forever.
He wasn’t there to cheer and celebrate when his son coached his high school soccer team in the Texas state championships two months later. He wasn’t there when his younger son began a new career in real estate. He wasn’t there when his grandson graduated from high school and his granddaughter celebrated her 16th birthday. And even now, he isn’t there to grow old with the girl he fell in love with so many years ago, or bless the world with his unique gifts.
His absence leaves a gaping hole in the lives of his family, haunted by the moments that could have been memories.
Pastors are people first, ordinary men and women who are vulnerable to the same illnesses, life circumstances and woes as the rest of us. Yet they have the added stress of living in glass houses, always under the watchful eyes of church members. Sometimes both faith leaders and the congregation forget that pastors are merely human and expect superhuman feats of endurance, wisdom, and knowledge. The unrealistic expectation that pastors and their families walk on water can only lead to deep disappointment and disillusionment, which can be lethal.
Please stop expecting your pastor to be anything more than a frail and fragile human being like you. Seek ways you can use your gifts, talents, and passions to share the load of your pastor. When you see hungry people, feed them. When you know people are sick, go visit them. If the church lawn is overgrown, crank up your mower and give a hand.
Rather than sit back and watch your pastor or priest or rabbi burn out from exhaustion and too-high expectations, volunteer and become a contributor instead of a spectator. Take care of your pastor. Seek to be a safe, non-judgmental person who your pastor can come to when he or she is hurting. And pastors, please don’t struggle alone.
If you, or someone you know is in distress or crisis, here’s two helpful links :-
- Samaritans phone number- 116 123 (24hrs)
Kay Warren – www.kaywarren.com
At 18 years old I submitted a sense of call to parish ministry for testing by assessors appointed by the Church. I knew by the end of the residential assessment over the course of 2 days and nights that I had made a few blunders but I was accepted. Before going to the Selection School, some people out of kindness had said I was very young and not to be disappointed if it was a “no” or “wait” verdict. I am glad that a grace which looked at potential, as well as testing the sense of call, prevailed.
Perhaps today you will meet someone, speak with someone, to whom God is wanting you to show the grace of seeing and encouraging “potential.” I tried to remember the grace of potential I had been shown when in the course of time I became an assessor, for a few years. It is a rich and life giving gift to offer to people. Offer it today if you are afforded the opportunity so to do.
The story of Onesimus comes to mind…someone carrying the verdict “useless “ over their life may need you to help them and others see concerning them, that they have the potential to be a “useful” and
fruitful contributor to the purposes of God.
It took me a while to notice, too long to save one life, but just in time to rescue the others. The lives of my houseplants!
On closer inspection of the small curled up leaves the other day, I discovered that most of my pots were literally bone dry. I’m not usually so neglectful of my green friends, but I realized that in this last spell of cold weather we had the heating on so much, that the heat was drying them out and withering them. I remembered my mother’s example in resuscitating plants and so filled the sink with a few inches of water and sat them there to soak. I had to keep topping up the water as the parched plants guzzled it up, and before long the transformation from shrivelled to flourishing was amazing. All they needed was a good soak.
This wee story reminds me today how Lockdown has affected us in many ways that can have a knock-on effect on our relationship and walk with God. We can so easily go by our feelings and neglect to read the Bible, pray, check into online church, etc. Feeling each day like Groundhog Day, pressures from endless cooking, home schooling, trying to work from home, and juggle a spouse working from home can leave us feeling overwhelmed and running ragged. We can be dry and not know it.
When these feelings go unchecked and we don’t get balance, we can gradually form unhealthy habits that aren’t good for us. We all know, we need to be in contact with God daily to keep our souls healthy, but when we are so dry from giving out to everyone else’s needs, our own needs can go unmet.
Perhaps our feelings are all over the place, we struggle to find a quiet space in the house, we’ve replaced daily readings with numbing box sets, we crash into bed at night too tired to read and we justify to ourselves we don’t need to tune into online services as we ‘know’ it all anyway. Before long we find ourselves like my dried up plants - weary and emotionally burnt out. We can feel sad and apathetic, not knowing the joy of the Lord which can then catapult us into in a cycle of guilt and shame, with a good dose of disappointment- all looping on repeat.
There is a solution within our grasp today, perhaps much easier, and effortless than you think.
All that’s needed is a good soak. Just like sitting in a sink of water, standing in heavy rain, relaxing in a full bath, a good soak leads to rejuvenation. Soaking in God restores our hearts, souls, perspectives, relationship, hunger for worship, living to seek first the kingdom, etc.
Why not carve out some time in your day? Even for 15 mins, put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door of your room, remove distractions – switch of phone etc and just sit somewhere comfy and ‘be’ with God. Invite Holy Spirit to come and stoke the embers of your heart, fuelling a fresh love and passion for Jesus.
Here’s some simple tips for Soaking in God to replenish your soul:-
1-Read the Bible, be still and empty your mind of everything but focussing on God, lay your heart before Him as you read slowly.
2-If you’re finding it hard to pray, start praying out loud what you are thankful for and go from there. The Lord is literally a prayer away and will meet you where you are.
3-Another way to pray is by praying the psalms, or repeating a verse until you feel connection. eg. – O God come to my assistance; Lord, make haste to help me. Psalm 70v.1
4-Play some worship music and instead of just listening, sing along quietly and imagine yourself standing before the Lord as you do.
5-Don’t be afraid of quietness. Listen to God. Invite him to speak to you and make you aware of His presence. I’ve been amazed at times to find old hymns or parts of the Bible I memorized in Sunday school bubble up from the depths to surprise and delight me.
6-Repeat the soaking process on a regular basis. Discipline becomes desire, and before you know it, a daily soaking time with God will become such a joy and part of your daily rhythm of life.
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 42v1-2)
From birth to death there will be many loves in our lives. BUT the greatest love for every one of us is to know the love of our Heavenly Father. He loves each of us perfectly, lavishly, and unconditionally.
This Valentines weekend is a timely reminder of His perfect love for us all.
God Loves YOU.
And He is the Father you have been looking for all your life.
This is His love Letter to you.
Father’s Love Letter used by permission Father Heart Communications ©1999 FathersLoveLetter.com
As well as the Father’s Love letter in video and pdf form, there is a wonderful devotional ebook also available.
This free e-book contains a devotional thought for each line in the Father’s Love Letter accompanied beautiful photos in a format that will help bring a deeper meaning to this intimate message from God to you.
It’s almost a year to the day since we had our first ESPS Ministries conference for women in ministry and leadership. Tailored for women who serve God in the roles of pastor, pastors spouse, missions workers, church leadership, etc. It was enormously beneficial to get together with others in similar roles and callings. This is an area we at ESPS Ministries are excited to continue developing for you.
What an incredibly blessed and inspiring day we had as we were built up and envisioned for the year ahead. None of us could have foreseen how that year was about to dramatically change with Covid-19 sweeping the whole world. Life was put on hold for us all, including our plans for another Conference at the start of this year. However, the good news is that we are planning a similar event for a later date, details to follow nearer the time.
Whether you were a conference delegate or not, I’ve been sensing the Holy Spirit encouraging us to listen to the seminars from that day again. As we look to start easing restrictions in the next month or so, this is a good time to position our hearts and see what God may be saying to us for our lives. Perhaps it’s time to rekindle the embers of our hearts again, stirring up faith for resurrection of hopes, dreams, purpose and promises? Listening to these seminars is certainly one way of doing that.
Many of us have struggled in areas of life and faith over these last long months. Why not take time now to encourage yourself? As you do God bless you with renewed strength and grace going forward in life, knowing that HE is right by us, in us, for us, and is going ahead of us!
Seminars from that day can be found on our website under ‘Conferences & Events’ – Click here
Here are the details of the teaching from each session.
Andrea Wigglesworth- 1–‘New Seasons- Could Be’s /should Be’s’ &
3 -‘What time is it? Time for Daniels to Arise’
Donna MacNeil- 2- ‘Fulfilment of Promises’ ( Looking at the life of Sarah)