Faith, Family, and Choices – A Look Back at the First 40 Years of My Life.
Life is made up of thousands of choices, but some are out of your control. And those can set the direction for your life.
At least they have for me.
Today I turn 40 years old. This birthday more than any, has caused me to reflect back on life. Like anyone else, I remember great moments of joy and laughter, but, unfortunately, I also remember moments of sadness and great pain.
Both had their roles in shaping me into who I am today. Some came by way of choices I made, and some came from choices of others or circumstances beyond human control.
Welcome to Earth
One of those choices beyond my control was my mom and dad. I can’t say I remember day one of this journey called life, but my dad claims he was trying to push me back and yelled to the doctor, “NO.”
That’s my dad. If you know Wes McClure, then you know he likes to laugh. He enjoys life. He would do anything for you, and he has for me. Our home was filled with laughter growing up. On the other end of those jokes was often my mom, Karen. She always took it well and still does to this day. If you ever meet her, just ask her about the “Red Barn” story, and you will see.
We don’t get to choose our parents, but I was blessed with a fantastic home. Mom and dad gave me a chance in this life by laying a foundation for me that I didn’t appreciate then, but I do now. They raised me in church and modeled the Christian life. They spent time with me. They worked hard and used their money wisely.
Another choice beyond my control was siblings. I was given two, Brian and Rebecca. Many of you may not have known I have a sister (or at least what she claims), but I do. She is seven years younger than me and, as a result, was the victim of many of my pranks. She also had to follow Brian and me around the state, suffering through our different sporting events.
Age doesn’t seem to matter after high school. Rebecca has become more than just a tag-along sister. She and her husband, Aaron, and their two kids mean the world to me. Much like my parents, they would be there if I had a need, and they have been.
Brian was nearly two years younger than me. Growing up, we did everything together. One-on-one football, stickball, frog pond are all terms he would understand. We think alike about a lot of things. Sometimes, it feels like we are Siamese twins because we will see something, look at each other, and immediately laugh. To some, Brian may not seem like a guy that laughs, but I can get him to laugh. Hard.
Brian and I are far past our one-on-one tackle football days or one glove boxing matches. Today we talk ministry and Bible as he serves alongside my dad as a pastor, and we teach a class together.
God has given Brian a wonderful wife, Tiffany, and four beautiful daughters. Rarely does a week go by that I don’t get to see my nieces and nephews.
Looking back over my first 40 years, I can’t help but think of family. We were close. We spent time together. We laughed. It set the tone for my life.
Because of time, I haven’t even mentioned my extended family. I could write 500 more words about my grandparents as well. For the first nineteen years of my life, my grandpa was my pastor. All of my grandparents went to church. The foundation for most of my family was our faith.
A Choice that Changed Eternity
At around 12 years old, I did make a choice that would change the course of my life. I realized on that day that the faith of my parents and grandparents wasn’t automatically handed over to me. While I may have been surrounded by Bible teaching, I wasn’t a Christian.
The best I can remember, it was a Sunday night, and I lay in bed wrestling in fear over my soul. I knew I was a sinner. I knew I needed God’s forgiveness. I knew I was on my well to hell.
I got up and walked upstairs and found my mom ironing dad’s clothes for the next day and my dad on his bed reading his Ryrie Study Bible. I hugged my mom and started to cry. I told her I wanted to be “saved.” Mom began to cry (I get my emotions from her) and sent me to dad, and he took the Bible and led me to Christ.
I wish I could say that I was perfect after that day, but I can’t. The foundation was laid, but I had much learning left. And public school tested me.
God’s Call on My Life
I have many school stories, but I don’t see how they apply to this post. My big takeaway from school is sports. I chose to play every sport I could and loved it. I met a lot of people. I had some great friends, but you rarely see them again once high school is over. Some come back into your life later, but life moves on fast.
After high school, another choice has to be made. I chose to go to Pensacola Christian College. Well––my parents heavily influenced that decision due to some poor choices I made in the last days of high school, but it was a good decision.
Early into my first year of college, God began to work on my heart. I always said I wanted to be a cop, so I thought that’s what I would study to become, but things were changing in my heart. I fought it for a while, but I knew God was calling me to a pastor.
Before I went to college, my dad had made the same decision. He left the factory he had worked at for 20+ years and became the pastor of our church. That decision of faith impacted me tremendously and gave me the courage to do the same.
At that point, I went all in!
In my mind, I had given my life to play sports, but now I wanted to give my life to learn how to preach and teach God’s Word. So I took every Bible class I could. I lived in the library. I not only listened to some of the best preachers in the country, but I studied how they communicated. How they gave an introduction. How they concluded messages. If this is what I would do for the rest of my life, I wanted to be the best I could be for God.
I graduated college at 22 years of age. Up to this point, all I knew was family and faith. And so I decided it’s time to start that for myself. I married right out of college and headed to Michigan to be an assistant pastor.
Ministry and Pain
During those eight years in Michigan, I got my Master’s degree in ministry. Still, more valuable than the degree was the practical experience I was getting and the hands-on approach Pastor Mark Booth took with me. I took missions trips to Wales, Ireland, and Honduras! It was here I learned what it meant to be a pastor.
During this time, my family was growing as well. In May of 2006, Mariah came along and changed my life forever. Being a dad scared me to death, but it also was the most incredible feeling. A short time after that, on January 31st of 2008, I was now the proud father of a baby boy named Braden. I can’t describe what it felt like to have a baby boy. He was going to be the next preacher in our family. My grandpa, my dad, me, and in the future, Braden!
Then in the afternoon of July 18th, 2008, life got complicated.
To this point, life had gone pretty smooth, but it was all about to change. That afternoon Braden went down for a nap and woke up in heaven. Back on earth, things were crazy. Braden’s body was rushed to the hospital, and while we prayed and cried out to God, a room full of doctors worked on him, but it was too late. He was in heaven, and I was on earth learning that some choices are out of our control––and hurt.
The next several days are a blur. But, one thing I remember is––family. I lived four hours from my family, but they got there as soon as they could. Their comfort and the foundation of faith they laid in my earlier life got me through this tragedy I never saw coming.
This tragedy gave me a ministry that I never wanted. I watched and talked to several families that faced similar circumstances over the years. But, unfortunately, not all chose to cling to God.
Life doesn’t stop for tragedies. You have to move on, but you are never the same. God blessed me with three more children in the years to follow. Eliana came in 2009, Jeremiah in 2012, and Elijah in 2014. I have stories around each of their names that I could tell, but that will have to wait till the book someday.
At the end of 2012, I said goodbye to my church family in Michigan and headed to southern Indiana. Green Road Baptist Church was looking for a pastor and decided to take a chance on this young preacher.
My good friend Chris Chavez (who I met through Braden’s death) was the president of Hoosier Hills Baptist Camp, located just 30 minutes away. My family was now only two hours away. Things were setting up nice! I was ready to spend my life in southern Indiana if God wanted.
In July every year, Hoosier Hills Baptist Camp has Family Camp. It’s been going on for years, and now that I was “back in town,” I went.
July of 2016 was different, though. That year Chris asked me to be one of the main speakers. Speaking the other nights would be Chris, himself, and Evangelist Dave Young. Chris had been an evangelist traveling the country, and Dave Young was a hero of mine. He preached the opening Revival each year when I was in college and had a significant impact on my life.
I was out of my league! On top of that, I was speaking on Wednesday. So everyone would hear Dave and Chris on Monday and Tuesday and be completely disappointed on Wednesday.
On Tuesday evening, I stayed up late looking over my message. It just wasn’t going to work. I couldn’t get peace. If you are a pastor, you know what I mean. So I began to pray and tweak a different message that ended up being brand new. It was entitled, “You Haven’t Blown it Yet.”
The first two nights had gone well, but according to Dave, something was off. There seemed to be a resistance for some reason.
Well, my time had come. So with sweat all over my bald head, I stood there behind the pulpit full of fear. Looking over to my right, I could see my hero Dave sitting there smiling.
The message seemed to go well and at the invitation, whatever resistance was there broke loose. (Dave’s words, not mine) God used the message to encourage families that felt like they had already blown it.
An hour or so after the service, Dave Young stopped me as I walked up to the dining hall. At first, he said some nice things about the message and then said words I’ll never forget, “God used your message to breakthrough in this conference.” I don’t think that’s an exact quote, but you get the idea!
That moment stands out to me more now than it did that day for reasons I’m about to reluctantly share.
I was eight years removed from the greatest tragedy of my life. Yet, God, in His grace, along with my loving family and friends, had brought me through. Life was good––Faith and family.
Or so I thought.
Little did I know that I only had a few more months left of pastoring. And my family would be shattered by choices outside of my control.
Two months after that camp meeting, I found some text messages from my wife at the time to another man that were not appropriate. Ironically, I was back visiting family and about to head to a revival service.
I investigated it, talked it through, and thought/hoped it was over. But, for the next few months, I struggled alone, watching this unfold. Sadly, I kept seeing signs that the problem wasn’t over, and on December 29th, 2016, the affair was exposed.
I’m leaving details out on purpose because at 2100 words into this, I refuse to turn it into an attack. It was a choice made. A choice I couldn’t control. A choice that changed my life forever.
In January of 2017, I resigned as the pastor of Green Road Baptist Church and moved back home. Literally back home to live with my mom and dad. I had nothing.
To this point, my life had been faith and family. Now my faith had been rocked, and my family destroyed. My children had spent every day of their life with me. But now, at best, I’d see them fifty percent of the time.
Pastoring was done. I found myself working at Gordmans warehouse, loading boxes on a truck next to a guy living with a stripper and giving me marriage counseling. Just two months before, I was preaching Christmas messages and a series on the southern Kings of Judah.
The divorce came in April of 2017. Divorce is nasty. It’s unfair to kids.
It’s been painful and full of fighting, even now. This trial that never seems to end has tested my faith more than any other. I’ve wrestled and fought with God.
In many ways, I feel like a failure. I feel like I’ve wasted all those days in college and in Michigan.
Thankfully, God has put family around me again and great friends that remind me that those days weren’t a waste. That “I haven’t blown it yet.”
A Gift from Heaven
I made another choice since the divorce. I was hesitant to make this choice at first. It was a choice that will shape the next forty years of my life. A choice that makes me excited for the second half of my life.
On November 3rd of 2018, I got remarried to a wonderful lady named Michelle (Collins). Michelle began coming to our church in 2018, and I noticed her but was NOT ready to move on. I didn’t know how. I was scared. Hurt. Confused. But I kept seeing her at church.
Michelle has no doubt been sent of the Lord for me. Her story is amazing, but she is extremely private, so I’ll wait to tell you later.
I read a quote once that said something like, “Share from your scars, not from your scabs, because your scabs are still oozing.”
That’s how it feels when I talk about these last five years. They are still scabs oozing and not ready to be shared in many ways. To be honest, I don’t even know how to package together the lessons I’m learning yet.
That’s what makes me excited about the next half of my life.
I’ve felt some deep pain, but I’ve experienced a greater sense of God’s grace.
Over the next forty years (Lord, willing), I look forward to making many new memories and learning more lessons. At some point in these next years, I’ll even experience the feeling of being a grandpa!
The pessimistic side of me wants to point out that the next half of my life will undoubtedly be filled with goodbyes and more heartache. As my children grow, the effects of many of the choices made will make their impact.
My only prayer is that the foundation of faith laid for me and that I have tried to lay for my children will strengthen them to overcome Satan’s temptations and trials.
I’m excited about the journey ahead, with Michelle by my side. Oh, and I forgot to mention the newest member of my family, Mayzie, our golden retriever. (No offense to our outside cat, Jellybean, that’s technically more recent)
Is Life Fair?
Has life been fair to me at this point?
I guess it’s all up to how you look at it.
In 1981 God looked down on a young couple in love and decided to give them a child. I had no choice in that, but I couldn’t have asked for a better situation. A home that loved me and introduced me to Jesus.
From my first day on earth (fighting off my dad, who was pushing me back and yelling) until now, I’ve been blessed. The choices I’ve made and the choices of others have brought both pain and happiness, but here I sit.
I have no idea what God has in store for me in the years ahead. My only desire is to keep my eyes fixed on Christ, love Michelle unconditionally, and be a good father to my children (and future grandchildren.)
If you are still reading this far in, you are either a professional stalker or someone who has crossed my path in the first 40 years. A church member, schoolmate, friend, family member.
However you know me, thank you for making these first 40 years great!
Check back in 40 years, and I’ll write a sequel!
In the meantime, I invite you to join me on my journey over these next forty years. I’m still teaching via podcast, and writing both here on the blog and weekly on the Pulpit to Pew Crew Newsletter.