“How does that make you feel?” As a CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) graduate, I’ve been asked that question more than a few times. It never set well with me. You can only be identified as a clear “ENTJ” on the Meyers Briggs so many times before it is painfully obvious that you don’t enjoy being asked how anything makes you feel. It’s not that I don’t have feelings, but I don’t enjoy people poking around in the most vulnerable and raw parts of myself. I got through a great portion of my CPE training without crying. I determined this to be a great success, since the ongoing joke was that you were not allowed to graduate until you cried in front of your peer group. I ultimately failed at keeping the tears at bay, and like almost all CPE folks I know, ended up a blubbering puddle in front of my colleagues before it was all said and done.
It has been nearly three years since that experience, but I now find my backbone bowed and teeth gritted, once again resisting the question, “How does that make you feel?” It’s a fair enough question when one resigns a pastoral position after only nineteen months. It doesn’t make the question any more welcome- or any easier to answer.
How do I feel? It depends on when you ask me. I recently took to re-watching a certain “Robot Chicken” cartoon short that features a giraffe experiencing the stages of grief after getting stuck in quicksand. It used to just be funny- now it’s relevant. The disbelief that anything like this could really be happening. Pure, unadulterated anger against all the forces of the universe that landed you in this spot. A desperate attempt at making bargains that could relieve you of this tragedy. Curled up in the corner kind of anguish at the now unavoidable fate before you. And finally, heaving that heavy sigh of release, giving yourself over to whatever may come.
I’ve felt it all. Correction- I feel it all. There are days when I can hardly believe that I am no longer pastoring a church. After all, it had been years in the making- years filled with heartache and disappointment; struggle and frustration; and many, many successes and moments of joy. Years of not caring what people thought or believed about me, or at least moving forward in spite of it all, had led me to embrace an identity that I had known would be mine since I was just a girl. Stepping down from the pulpit? Resigning my pastorate? Never.
There are days when there is nothing but anger, and as the giraffe says, “I want to bite someone in the face!” These days it can feel like “they” won. The people who put up signs around town reminding us that “women are not to be pastors, according to God’s will”; the people who damned me to hell right next to the frozen peas at Walmart; the people who intended on tearing our congregation apart from the outside- and worse, from the inside. Anger- yes, oh yes.
There are days when setting up a few sweet deals with God sound like a good plan. If I manage to keep it together, hold my peace, can you just get me out of here unscathed? I mean, you brought me here and look what happened. At least make me a better deal this time. Shine a little light on that dimly lit path in front of me and I promise, God, next time we can make it work. Look out, world, here we come again!
There are days when the sadness threatens to overtake you, when the ache in your soul is so real that all you can do is go and sit in that corner that you swore you would never visit. These are the days that feel most like CPE all over again, the days when this “ENTJ” doesn’t know what to do with herself. It’s nothing but emotion, raw hurt over all that you have endured- and anything you may have inflicted. These days are the worst.
Then there are the days when it is finished and you can do is release the breath that’s been held captive for so long. I am here and this is happening. Nothing played out the way I had planned. Pastoring is as hard and hurtful as I knew it could be. Calling or not, you are human- and so are they. These are the days I ask, “What now?”
As humorous as the giraffe’s journey through grief is, there is a moment at the end that gives me something other than laughter. As the animal embraces its impending death, it’s feet touch the bottom. That gives me hope. Just when all seems lost and this swirling, out of control ride threatens to drag you under- you touch the bottom. That is the day when the Almighty gives you a buoyancy that you did not believe was possible, insisting that life-your life- goes on.
How does that make me feel?
Empowered, thankful, loved, called, healed.
Thanksgiving, aside from the many blessings in my life, always makes
me think of corn on the cob. As a little girl my mom would always cut
my corn off the cob for me, and I would beg her to cut it off in giant
clumps. In my mind it was so much more delicious to eat a group of
kernels instead of individual kernels, and I was always amazed at how
the clumps of corn hold each other together.
Perhaps, this is a model for us all as a Christian family.
This summer my husband and I learned first hand what it was like to
have the need to be lifted up by God and held together with His love
shown through our Christian family.
My husband and I are growing our family through adoption. This summer
we were matched with a birthmother who chose to place her baby with us
to be adopted. After three months of multiple trips to the state the
birthparents live in, multiple doctors visits, a false labor, and a
baby girl my husband photographed held and fed the birthparents
changed their mind. They decided to parent the child. Our worst fear
about the adoption journey was realized.
My husband and I returned our baby pink car seat and baby animal
bedding set (complete with little pink squirrels) as fast as possible.
After all, if you rip a band-aid off quickly it will not hurt as
much. At least that is the theory…
We are thankful for the way our Christian family has clumped around us
and God’s love shined through them to hold us together and lift us up
in prayer over the last couple of months. One of the most meaningful
notes we received was from a friend who honestly confessed that she
did not know what to say but was praying for us and thinking about us.
So, where was God’s will in all of this? Honestly, I will never know.
I do know that since we did not adopt this baby girl my husband and I
took a wonderful trip together out west, I found a new passion for
drawing after taking a class with my mom, and one day God will place
our baby in our arms to adopt and do the best we can modeling God’s
unconditional love and grace as we become a family.
You may not eat corn on the cob at your Thanksgiving feast. Corn may
not come to mind at all when you think of this very important fall
holiday. However, when you gather at the table with your family this
year may you not forget what it means to be a part of a Christian
to be honest with other even when it means confessing that you do not
know what to say
to lift each other up in prayer
to clump together showing love and support
to be covered by the sweet sweet Spirit
to praise God
Praise Him in joy.
Praise Him in the ordinary.
Praise Him in grief.
Praise Him in pain.
Praise Him in uncertainty.
Praise Him for His perfect plan.
Praise Him throughout your journey.
Thanks be to God.
May your Thanksgiving be ever so delicious!
I have always had mixed feelings toward Moses. While recognized as a great prophet in all three monotheistic faiths, he strikes me as being both spineless and incredibly brave. God makes the effort to appear to him and audibly speak to him through a burning (but not consumed) bush and he has the bravado to argue. God chooses him and he questions himself. Is his doubting not with good reason though? After all, his heritage was that of a slave raised in the house of the Pharaoh. He murdered an Egyptian, fled as a refugee, and by his own confession was not the most eloquent. However, despite this less than spotless resume, God saw something in Moses that Moses could not see in himself. Read more…
This past summer I tried to do away with Face Book. It was nice but frustrating. Some folks in the church only communicate through FB. People kept asking me when I was coming back. So after my experiment I returned. But I am using it more for communication and posting Star Wars photos these days. I don’t really want to log my every move. I prefer to send messages and announcements regarding church activities, etc. I don’t mind the occasional attempt at humor either. Read more…
Voters in swing states like Virginia and North Carolina might already know that the dates of the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention are quickly approaching. In anticipation of these two events, the National Cathedral in Washington has published a piece in its quarterly magazine regarding the faith of prospective presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Story found here. Read more…
I declined to write a post last week primarily because I felt that enough people would be offering a perspective on the politics of Chick-fil-a. The media storm surrounding the whole ordeal was enough to make me vomit, so I opted to withhold writing a perspective. I will only leave readers with this – let’s not politicize our food to the point that everything we eat stands for something more than food. I do not want to walk into a grocery store twenty years from now debating whether or not to buy the pro-gay cookie versus the anti-gay cookie. I already exert enough energy finding the cookie aisle to begin with.
Alas, the news always offers something new to talk about.