I lived in a suberb. I grew up going to church. I attended a private elementary/middle school. 

This upbringing sheltered me from a lot. 

Violence was foreign, abuse was unheard of, and pain was an emotion I had never really experienced. 

Though I would attend a public high school, go on to attend UC Berkeley, start businesses, and work different jobs that would expose me to many walks of life, at age 27, when I was offered my first job as a pastor to high school students and young adults, my worldview was still small and my understanding of people and pain was still very shallow.     

But one conversation changed everything. One conversation shifted the way I viewed my role as a pastor forever. One conversation opened my eyes to what I had been naive to for so long.

She was only 20. Yet, she had already experienced more hurt, pain, and suffering than anyone else I knew.

Verbal and emotional abuse. 
Sexual promiscuity. 
Multiple abortions. 
Attempted suicide.  

I was stunned. Saddened. Speechless.

Not only was this really her life story, but she had chosen to trust me with it.

I can hardly remember the counsel I gave in return, but I can remember the lesson that God impressed upon me that day as I walked out of the Starbucks where we had met. Unfortunately, in hearing many stories similar to hers since, it is a lesson that I am reminded of all too often:

Pastoral ministry is an invitation to join someone in their pain (no matter how deep it is) and journey with them as God redeems their pain (no matter how long it takes).

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ." 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

"Behind every beautiful thing there's been some kind of pain." Bob Dylan