Pride and Purpose

Author: Pastor Richard Castillo
August 23, 2018

Ever since my youngest moments, I have a memory of pride - pride in my church, pride in my beliefs, pride in my Savior and the fact that I have an exclusive invitation to accept His salvation.

As a child you could see my pride manifested in my ability to say all the books of the bible or recite the 10 commandments in first grade. You could see my pride manifested, as I got older, by my love of the “sword drill” or how quickly I could find a verse in the bible.  You could see my pride display itself as I preached my first sermon from my father’s pulpit at the age of 13. I was so sure back then that my destiny was to follow my father’s footsteps and become a pastor. I had pride in the fact that my family has a legacy of serving in ministry and glorifying God through our occupations. I was the kid who could drop a sermon without any preparation. Give me a bible verse and I could offer a mini-sermon. People took advantage of it and I found myself sharing with the schools I attended, the Sabbath Schools I joined or the Camp Meetings that filled my summers with joy.

Going to the General Conference Session for the first time in New Orleans was like a dream to me as a child. I felt as though I had a chance to see some of the breadth of the “kingdom” I had a membership in. I look back and my perceptions were not  much different from the way in which our country was seen in the early 20th century. People’s view of JFK’s government as a Camelot and their view or hope that our leadership would make the best choices with the best intentions is a staple of history books.

“Ignorance is bliss” is a saying I couldn’t quite grasp back then, but it began to become clear, as I got older. As a child of a pastor, you get the chance to listen in on some of the politics that others may have the opportunity to miss. You have a chance to see the sides of a decision and question why the leadership chose the path that they did. The crystal castle began to crack.

I held onto my intense pride. I chose to bury my feelings and chose to be ignorant of what was staring me in the face. I had elevated my church and my calling in that church to such a level that I was willing to plow through. I made it as far as my second year in college as a theology student before reality struck me. As I sat in my Greek language class, I found myself looking at the people in the room who were all slated to become leaders in our church and what I knew of each of their futures. I decided right there and then that I didn’t see myself as one of them. The vision I had of my future seemed bleak if I continued on the path that would lead me to join them in leadership.

This is not to say that I lost faith in Christ. I still had a strong prayer life and I held strongly to my beliefs, but I just couldn’t stand to be a part of the bureaucratic and administrative side of a church whose people seemed flawed in so many ways. It seemed too risky to work behind the veil and possibly find myself burnt and dead spiritually for the sake of a job.

I followed my talents and eventually found myself working in the media industry, designing and photographing, quite honestly, a hidden and ugly world. What the camera or microphone highlights in the media is not real life. What is just beyond the camera and microphone is real life and it is dirty, ugly and would give you a lasting bad taste in your mouth. It seems that veil is quickly being pulled back these days. It seems we are all becoming a bit jaded and numb to the nonsense we hear and see coming at us continuously from our screens and speakers.

The beauty of the path that God took me down was that as the world’s shiny objects became more and more tarnished, I began to clearly see the beauty that lies in and amongst the roughness of our beloved church. I began to see Christ in places I had not looked for him. I began to see truly valuable aspects to a church I had all but given up on. Those valuable aspects gave me one specific gift: a purpose.

The holes that seemed full of darkness began to clarify into gaps in a design that I quickly found God had given me the talents and experience to fill, even as I wandered. I began to see clearly that elevation in position and fame doesn’t endow a leader or known person with special abilities. They are no different than us; they just have greater responsibilities, whether they fulfill them in a worthwhile way or not. I found that as I glorified God in my work and actions he was blessing my path and giving me more and greater responsibility. 

I’ve had peers who have struggled in mighty ways with their place in this church. Maybe the church rejected them for some aspect of their personality or talent, or in some cases, they were hurt or confused by the choices of the leaders they had once seen as infallible. My answer to them was once clichéd and pithy, designed to lead to loyalty to an organization or institution, but my answer today takes a more simple direction.

Today my answer to anyone questioning his or her place in our church is simply, “Have you asked God where he wants you?”  If you’re struggling, there is a part of you that wants to remain a part of the body. The Holy Spirit is not a fan of busy work; we don’t have time for it. If you are looking around saying, “Where do I belong?” You are simply experiencing a method that God uses to help you find the path where you will be the best and most productive for His Kingdom. I do not and will not advocate that each searching individual be pulled into the arms of the church, only that each individual be pulled into the arms of Christ.

As I am an example, I had to wander a bit before I found a sincere and true purpose in this church, but now it is grounded in a powerful foundation. My wandering, as scary as it can be for parents and guardians, endowed me with knowledge and abilities that I would not have otherwise, and a resolution that the wider world no longer has a grasp on me. My faith is as strong as it has ever been because I am in a concerted and parallel path with the work of the Savior of this world; nothing could be more fulfilling for me.  I pray as you journey on the path God has set before you, you find the same fulfillment, because you’ve made Jesus the center of your amazing experience.

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