My dad used to tell a story about a preacher who had been asked to move to a distant Third World country to do mission work. The preacher shared how he was wrestling with the decision and trying to discern God’s will about it. When someone asked the preacher’s wife her thoughts, she said simply, “He may be praying, but I’m getting busy packing.”
In recent months I came to understand this statement more deeply as Bethesda Workshops went through the process of getting our own home. For years we had envisioned our own space, and in early 2015, that vision began to take shape. Around late February 2016, we toured this building, signed a contingency contract a few weeks later, and started the anxiety-ridden process of fundraising and determining the cost of renovation.
At each step, there was a fork in the road. Do we move forward? Or do we retreat into the fiscal safety of not yet? Our board of directors grappled with the decisions. I agonized over each one and tried to balance the seemingly competing pulls of faith and financial responsibility. I struggled to lead with vision, while also following any obvious signs that we weren’t on the right path.
I’m sorry to disappoint, but I didn’t discover any magic scale. There was no single moment when I was certain of the YES! until the very end.
However, I did find that if each anticipated step was one of prudence and integrity, the path forward became clear, at least for that next tread. Phase by phase, we kept moving forward. We started packing, and we prayed that God would clearly close the door if our steps were foolish or at least, unwise.
Recovery is a similar journey. The process of transformation isn’t always clear, and for sure, it isn’t linear. There are huge obstacles at many points, and most of them sound reasonable. “My family is distressed by the changes I’m making. I don’t want to upset them.” Or “Going to all these support meetings takes time I should spend with my spouse and kids after all the hours I wasted acting out.” And there is always the very practical issue, “I can’t afford an intensive workshop or all this counseling.”
My experience is that if the decision or opportunity involves something that on its face is positive – something appropriate and potentially beneficial – it makes sense to move forward until the path is clearly blocked. It also helps to consider the question of the greater good. In Bethesda Workshops’ situation, the greater good was to have a space that was totally within our control and available for additional ministry.
Healing people might ask, “What’s more important – my recovery, or the displeasure of some folks who likely aren’t the epitome of health to start with?” Or, “After all the money I squandered acting out, doesn’t it make sense to invest in my healing?”
It also helps to watch for affirming signposts along the way. In previous blogs I’ve mentioned the alumni couple who jumpstarted the vision’s fulfillment by providing the $250,000 challenge gift toward Bethesda Workshops’ own space. (We are still in the process of meeting that goal, by the way.) Then in June, 2016, when it was undeniably clear that we couldn’t raise enough money to meet the contracted purchase deadline, an investor bought the building for the ministry and is financing it for us on a lease-purchase agreement. Wow!
A different kind of gift encouraged us during a critical time. Last spring a wife arrived at the Healing for Partners workshop and quietly shared that she had brought a gift from her husband. During a quiet time when few others were in the parking lot, she invited me to go out to her car. She opened the trunk and revealed a large, carefully wrapped bundle: the angel sculpture that illustrates this blog. The husband had previously attended the Healing for Men workshop, and he was moved to use his talents to create a sculpture of the Bethesda Workshops’ angel, which is the ministry’s logo. (In fact, there were two angels – one representing the husband’s healing and another for the potential healing for his wife.) These beautiful, strong angels inspired us to keep moving forward, and one is displayed at each entrance to our new home.
After both praying and packing, on December 19, 2016, Bethesda Workshops moved into our own fully renovated space! In January, we welcomed the first male sex addicts to an intensive workshop, and since then, a group of female sex addicts and a group of addicts’ partners have found healing in this place. A full calendar of intensive workshops is scheduled throughout the year, and Lord willing, far beyond.
Marnie C. Ferree