I have been lurking on my own blog. I don't know what I expect to happen-- perhaps that a new post will magically appear? Funny, that. I suspect that I will have to write a new post if I want one to appear. I figure that if I'm lurking maybe somebody else is, too? Or not.
I skipped my annual Ash Wednesday hit and run. I haven't felt particularly theologically/spiritually centered lately. Ironically, I have been reading more theological material, catching up on more current events, hanging out with colleagues, and devoutly reading my Bible. I've even been super faithful about my Lenten discipline. I've only slipped once in three weeks, and it wasn't even a big slip. Not too bad.
In case you're wondering, I spent $10.00 on a tee shirt. One of my Lenten disciplines is that I won't spend money on anything but the essentials during this season. But the shirt had a really, really cute pencil drawing of pandas on it.
The problem is that it's all happening in my head right now; my heart is pretty disengaged.
This is out of character for me. Really, if it doesn't make me feel something, I'm not likely to stick around for very long. I have to feel it. But this is God. I don't want to walk away from God or church or Jesus or spirituality or ministry. The question, though, is how to stay with it when I feel mostly worn out and sad about the state of the world and specifically, the state of my church.
One might argue that the 'state of the church' is some kind of a reflection on the pastor's mental/physical/spiritual/soul health. I've decided that that may be marginally true but that it is mostly an unhealthy projection made by people who are badly in need of a boundary check: This is your simple, real, self-contained, beautiful pastor body; that, over there, is the lumpy, contagious, beautiful, unruly church body. Any questions?
Looking at this week's lectionary texts is not helpful, either. The story of the man born blind is a little about healing, a little about family, a little about faith, and a lot about conflict between the Pharisees and Jesus.
It is that conflict part that gets under my skin most. I feel constant conflict between my faith and the structure known as church. It has become worse in these last few months as I have tried to help some young people find a home. The church has been their home for a few months now. It can't go on forever. We all know this. But, people in the church are officially upset. Some of them wrote an anonymous letter to my boss's boss -- the bishop. My favorite line reads something like, "We love Pastor Orangeblossoms, but we believe that she has taken her Christian charity too far."
Since when is Christian charity mine.... and what exactly is too far? Who keeps track of these things. Perhaps we should ask Jesus?
This has kind of sucked the happy right out of ministry and church lately. Actually, it's kicking my ass.
I struggle with many pieces of this experience. Beyond the obvious, I struggle with the the pharisee-inside-of-me who wants to condemn, rather than forgive these folks wilst I use this as a teaching moment to help them understand. Like Jesus here, I want to "look at them and love them". Instead, I feel betrayed. Just plain betrayed. I think it is probably not that kind of noble Jesus-was-betrayed-by-his- followers-and-forgave-them-anyway betrayed feeling, either.
I also sort of feel like a failure as a pastor. How did I not communicate the Message? How did I become so invested in the institution that my own witness is hampered or even invisible? Being a good "pastor" by any definition makes it difficult to live the gospel. Being a pastor means maintaining a church, growing a community, supporting a denomination. On a really, really good day it means taking a small risk for the gospel. Being a Christian means risking for the Gospel every single day, without hesitation... I think it is harder and harder for me to be a pastor and to live the Gospel. One price of that is that I am not effectively modeling Christian discipleship and action. But I am talking about it. A lot. The other price, I think, is my soul. But that's another blog entry, isn't it?
I know. The good people of my church are just scared that they will have a lawsuit on their hands. They are scared that the kid who lives in that room will do something bad or become someone bad. He won't. He just won't. I know it.
I know it because I have taken the time to know him. I have seen him, seen through his defenses.... I have been in his vulnerability and allowed myself to be vulnerable with him. He is okay. Beaten down by his past, hurt by the present... struggling with the ravages of it all. Here we are. We have all that we need to help him find his future. But, he isn't quite there. YET.
If King Josiah (among others) could soften his own heart before God to plead for his people, surely I can soften mine toward this congregation; surely, they can soften theirs toward these kids.
Surely, God will intervene.
This is not the right moment for me to lose faith in that possibility; neither is it the right time for me to quit.