Monday, September 18, 2006

The Hard Thing

Psalm 42.1-6
As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
the face of God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me continually,
‘Where is your God?’

These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I went with the throng,
and led them in procession to the house of God,
with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.

There are days in ministry when too much time is spent doing "church work."

There's probably too many of those days.

Sequestered in an office, albeit a cool one (since I've moved down the hall, at last) where it's quiet, more of a study than an office, really - there I am, doing work, to be sure, but not always work that in the end matters worth a darn.

Then there are other days when I'm hardly in my office, because the role of ministry has me intersecting the real life issues of those I'm called to shepherd.

Today has been one of those days.

There is a couple in my congregation who is doing what I can only call "the hard thing" today. The reality that the addition to their family - that addition for which prayers have been offered, and thanksgivings shared, is not going to reach its potential lies before them.




All those emotions are at play.

And I'm just talking about mine.

They are showing remarkable courage today, and in the moments of extremity in the lives of others, suddenly the pettiness of those pestering things in my own life are rightly judged.

I have personal experience with life's potential not realized. That, together with previous pastoral encounters over the years, informs me of what cannot be avoided. And so, when it was clear what was going to happen and how, I shared the only words I knew to offer,
I wished there was some way to tell you that today was going to be easier than it's going to be, but I can't. It is by its very nature intolerable and unbelievable and yet unavoidable. Today will be one of the hardest days you'll ever experience, and although I can't tell you the whys of how things are as they are, there is one thing I cling to and offer you through this, God is crying with you today. Of that, I have no doubt.
The role of the church and of those of us authorized to lead it is too often occupied, if not held captive by the "busy-ness" of the work. And as often as I complain about that, I am aware that it may be that there are days we need to immerse ourselves in such affairs. Maybe such days serve as buffers between the "hard things" that are unavoidable.

June of 2007 will conclude the 20th year since a bishop appointed me to a church to serve as pastor(for pension purposes, I have to wait until 2009 to count 20, but that's another post), and during that time, sprinkled across the years, there are hard things to be remembered. To that number I've added one today, and through them all, each horrific in their own way, I've discovered one enduring truth about the faith.

The measure of faith in God's presence is not the illusion that we are somehow immune or exempt from "the hard thing." The measure is the realization, once we've endured, of how, without God's presence operative in our lives and in that situation, that we wouldn't have endured at all.

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