Editor’s Note: Today’s story is from our President Darrell Vesterfelt. He lives in West Palm Beach, Florida with his wife Ally where he manages Prodigal Magazine and is a Team Pastor at Shoreline Church.
It had been a long couple of months.
I’d met the woman I wanted to marry and spent every last dollar I had flying her across the country. I’d finished one ministry and was getting ready to start another. I’d packed everything I owned in my Toyota Corolla and driven with my soon-to-be-wife from Minneapolis, to my new home in West Palm Beach, Florida.
I’d loaded my things into a friend’s garage, flown back across the country to Portland, Oregon, to meet her family. I had planned to have a certain nerve-wracking conversation with her dad.
I’d decided to propose, but had no money.
I’d freelanced, spoken at a church, scraped together every last dollar I could, and bought a ring I knew she would love. She said yes. We had planned (with lots of help) a very fast wedding.
We’d packed all of her things to move her across the country.
Now we were three weeks away from the wedding day and, here I was, by myself, trying to find a place for us to live in Florida. This was the last obstacle to overcome and I didn’t have much energy left to overcome it.
I need this to be easy, God. I prayed. I need you to help me.
Thankfully, it took no time at all to find the perfect place. A great deal for the area. I signed the lease, got my keys and thanked God as I walked inside.
Thank you God, I whispered under my breath. And then said, I pray she likes it.
The apartment was perfect for us, for now. It wasn’t the nicest place we had ever lived, or the nicest neighborhood, and the staff at the front desk weren’t the most respectful, or the most prompt to respond to our requests, but it was ours.
I had to return to the front office on three separate occasions to get a fifty dollar gift card that they had promised two weeks prior. The third time I returned I told the woman what I had been told, and asked if they had it ready for me.
No, she said matter-of-factly. We don’t.
I felt heat rise up behind my face.
“I need that money from you ASAP” I told her, but I could tell from the way she kept staring at the paperwork on her desk that she wasn’t taking me very seriously. She barely even lifted her eyes to look at me.
“Sir, you’re going to have to come back on Friday,” she said.
“Look,” I told her. “I can’t come back on Friday. I’m only in town for two more days. Then I’m flying to Oregon to get married. There isn’t another option.
I need that gift card to be ready today!”
I turned to walk away, proud of myself for putting my foot down. But as I turned I heard her voice, turning frustrated, come again behind me. “Good luck with that,” she told me. “There’s no way it will be ready before Friday.”
I whipped back around.
“Shut up,” I said, teeth clenched, “just shut up,” I told her.
With that, I stormed out the office door.
I walked back to my car, climbed in, and put my head down on the steering wheel, where the tears started to flow.
I don’t cry much, but this was an exception. I was at the end of my rope. I couldn’t believe I had just been so rude to the woman at my apartment complex.
And over what?? Fifty dollars??
Here I was, a “pastor” and I couldn’t even keep my cool when things didn’t go my way. I was supposed to be a witness — a living example that things could be different, life could be different, when lived with Jesus.
And instead of showing her that, I reacted just like any other overly tired, worn-out, exhausted human would have acted when things didn’t go their way.
That’s when it occurred to me. I’m no different than anyone else.
Being a Christian does not make me different than any other person around me. It doesn’t give me more patience, or resilience, or make me a nicer person or a harder worker, necessarily.
It doesn’t give me an automatic selfless heart that only ever cares about others.
All that it does Is gives me Jesus.
And when I live my life in relationship with him, when I rely on his spirit good things come out. Love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness and self-control.
But that doesn’t mean that life is all of a sudden easy.
The minute I take my eyes off of him, the minute I rely on myself, I find out that I’m just as messed up as the next guy. Just as likely to yell and curse and make a bad decision. Just as likely to protect myself at the expense of someone else.
And if what separates me from the rest of the world isn’t me, I need to start living my life for something different.
Have you ever said or done something that you regretted later? What did God teach you about yourself?