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God and I at Catalyst

Yesterday God was more present in my life than any human being I have ever encountered.

The following story is extremely personal and I hesitated to share but I feel there may be many of you reading who will benefit from it and I'd be disobedient and dishonoring to hide what God did in my life and what he can do in your life. This story is about God's glory. This is a very real move of God in my life that I will always remember. I hope if you're like me you will be able to experience this in your own way.

The day began with Andy Stanley's talk on Moral Authority. Andy effectively spoke to the fact that "There must be Alignment between Our Deeds and Our Creeds" Moral Authority can overcome many things in leadership.

Andy spoke of three areas where Christians should OWN moral authority:
Forgiveness, Family and Finances

Certainly all three areas have implication for me to some degree but God decided to blindside me on the area of Forgiveness. At the end of the talk Andy asked us to picture 'who are the people you need to forgive?' I pictured the man who was my first 'boss' in the ministry world. He was a Pastor from my past who in a period of approximately 18 months broke my spirit and damaged my self image. God has since restored me but one thing I had yet to do was actually forgive this person. I haven't seen him since I resigned.

During the closing prayer I decided that I needed to pray about this... you know, be spiritual. I prayed something like "Okay God, you brought up _______ to me. Obviously you want me to deal with this so I pray you help me deal with this. (You know, good solid faith-less prayer)

During the next intermission a friend and I went to the concourse to check out vendors, stretch and use the restroom. Among the casual glances and stares into the distance can you imagine who came into my sight? Yes, my former Pastor.

For years I have joked with a friend that Christianity was small and that one day some how we would bump into him at some event. We often asked 'What would you do?' I didn't really 'do' anything. I looked away from shock. I wasn't sure how to respond to this.

Ultimately I thought "Wow God. What in the world are you doing?

During a new worship set a few hours later I recall seeking God on this topic and again approached him to be what I considered a pretty good over. I said "God, apparently you want me to deal with _________. I know that out of 12,000 people it's no coincidence that you had me see him here." I went on. I said "God, IF you want me to forgive him in person then I ask you to have me see one another again. Now there are 12,000 people here God (like he needs my reminder) and I understand if I don't see him. I get the picture, you want me to forgive him regardless of if I do it in person directly." So at this point I'm thinking God wanted to remind me that I still had some pain that I hadn't properly dealt with. As a Christian leader I thought that I had a pretty solid grip of the whole situation.

Fast forward to about 4 hours later. I've been invited out with some leaders for dinner. They selected a restaurant about 15 minutes away as to avoid the Catalyst crowd anywhere close to the arena. After about 15 minutes do you have any clue who walked into the building? Yes. This very same Pastor. My heart rate moved from turtle to jet-engine. I couldn't believe what God was doing. Now you must know that all day I spoke with God back and forth about this. In between some great events and great speakers I had this side conversation with God about this forgiveness and how it wasn't healthy for me. I hadn't realized it that I really had these feelings. I knew I was bothered and hurt but I always dismissed it. Now on this day at this moment... God was moving this from the back pages of my life's story and printing this issue in big, bold letters... FORGIVE!

I didn't have any doubt what my action would be. I knew I had to go do it. I waited until he and his group finished ordering and then I excused myself from our table. My host asked 'Is that a friend over there?' I said "Well, not exactly, I'll explain later."

I went over to this table and said hello. To say this man was shocked would be an understatement. I'd be shocked... wouldn't you?

We exchanged pleasantries before I asked for him to step to the side with me and talk for a second. He and I took a few steps away from the table out of earshot of his friends. I explained to him how Andy spoke on forgiveness and how I saw his face in my mind. I went on to tell him that I didn't expect anything of him. I expressed that he hurt me through his poor leadership and behavior but that I wanted to forgive him. I told him that I really wanted the ability to pray for his blessing with a pure heart.

I'm sure he was still in shock but he began to share his story. He said that he had some personal issues to deal with at that time and he eventually stepped out of ministry for 8 months and stepped into a place where he could grow as a person. He said "On Monday I will be 37. I wish I could go back to there today and become your 37 year old Pastor. I would handle things differently. I would like to but I can't. I used to have a my way or the highway approach and I was wrong. I want you to know that I have done what i know to repent and grow."

We spoke kindly about each other's families, got caught up in our ministry endeavors and promised to pray for one another. We ended the 3-4 minute conversation with a departing hug.

What a freeing moment. I cannot describe the peace that hit me. God is amazing and beautiful and sovereign.

posted by Tally Wilgis @ Friday, October 10, 2008


At 2:16 PM, Blogger JC said...

What a great testimony of God's arresting pursuit of us.

Thanks for sharing the personal story.

At 1:00 PM, Blogger pat gillen said...

Tally, thanks for your openness. God is amazing.

I had a similar event at the beginning of the year. I started this church with a good friend from childhood, who didn't lead one iota. In spite of my petitions to actually try to reach people, he seemed content with 'cruise control'. A little over a year ago (just before P2 last year) he gave me a months notice that he would be heading out. I was the associate pastor, but he told me "you can shut it down, keep it going, or whatever you want to do". Not what I signed up for.
I was pretty bitter and pretty hard about it. I felt like someone took advantage of me, and I felt abandoned in what is otherwise a great endeavor (church planters don't need their leadership backing out... everyone else does and you expect more from leadership). I said some pretty harsh things that I shouldn't have said because I reacted in anger. Last December I had to tell him I forgive him and asked for his as well. He didn't understand why he would need to be forgiven (kind of a 'its not personal, just business' type thing) but it is amazing what forgiveness will do! Bitterness will tear you apart while you may have not even entered their minds!

I don't know why I share all of this, but your post resonated with me because it wasn't that long ago that God took me down a similar path. Thanks for sharing, it was good at least running into you at the conference.


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