Leaving with Integrity
I vividly recall the moment I was called into ministry. I had been living for myself, so I made the decision to give back the life Christ had given to me. I wanted to mean it when I said, “Whatever you want Lord. I’ll be that and I’ll do that.” That was over 22 years ago.
When you lay it all down, your life takes an interesting turn. You start listening to the Lord a little differently, and you end up in a vocation you never expected. You go where you honestly believe he is telling you to go.
Then sometimes it doesn’t work. (Sadly, I have been in this position on more than one occasion.) You sought the Lord’s wisdom. You prayed and prayed. You received advice from godly mentors and trusted advisors. You genuinely felt like God wanted you to be at this church or at this ministry doing what they hired you to do. Then it all falls apart, sometimes painfully.
It could be that you thought your philosophies of ministry aligned, but it turns out they don’t. Perhaps you asked all the right questions before accepting the job—except for that one that mattered most. Maybe you thought you had done everything right, but the leadership doesn’t see it that way. There are countless reasons why the setting, the ministry, or the position might not work out.
Leaving well is always a struggle, whether the circumstances are good or bad. We would rather run away and hide or heal than confront the situation head-on. How do we best deal with those tough times?
Be Honoring in the Story You Tell
Integrity is a lost art. It’s best to pick out a very small group of trusted people to express how you really feel about leaving. Even if you feel wounded by the situation, a slash and burn attitude will only leave a pile of ashes in your wake. It might feel like you are letting hurtful people get away with something. But in truth you are protecting your own heart. There have been times when people have asked me pointed questions about past situations, and in those situations I’m honest. Yet, I work hard not to just spit venom. That hurts everyone, especially you. It can come back to poison you when you least expect it.
Publicly Honor Your Leadership
This can be especially difficult as you play in your head all the things you want to say. Unfortunately, mud slinging solves nothing and leaves behind a mess. It forces people to take sides, and you may not be happy with the side they take. You want to be running forward, not looking over your shoulder. These days, it is easier than ever to make a public declaration that we immediately regret. Here is something I have learned: our God is a God of justice. If someone is that damaging, they can’t hide forever. But it’s best to leave justice in God’s hands in these situations. Our careless words have a way of binding us to the past instead of setting us free to move on.
Tie up Loose Ends
Don’t limp out the door. Lead the parade! I can’t tell you why some situations end the way they do. There are so many scenarios of sin we deal with. Wouldn’t it be awesome if it were just as simple as dealing with our own issues? But that’s not the way the world works. Do everything as if you are doing it for the Lord until the very last hour in your position. Finish well. Don’t burden yourself with regrets, and don’t burden others with half-finished work.
Work through Your Hurt
Leave time to grieve. Be honest with yourself and with the Lord about how you are feeling. Don’t make excuses about how you should feel. The important thing is not to get stuck in bitterness. It may take some time to be at peace with how it all went down. That’s alright. Some wounds only heal with time. Whatever you do, look to Jesus for that healing. Don’t blame him for pain caused by other people.
In the end leaving is never easy. I would love to say that you will always understand why it happened. You won’t. I would love to say that I have followed my own advice every time. I haven’t. But I can say that we can trust in the character of our Savior. We can be sure that he loves us through every season of transition. Leaving with integrity and humility helps us draw closer to him, and in that way, the pain of leaving can be redeemed.
About the Author
Leneita Fix co-founded Frontline Urban Resources with Jeffrey Wallace to equip, coach, and speak into the lives of those working with families living in a “survival mode” mentality. They refer to this thinking as the “new urban.” Combined, they carry almost four decades of experience in the family ministry setting, most of it in traditional urban ministry. However each… Read More