The events of this past day have nearly knocked me off my feet and brought me down from whatever sense of euphoria I had experienced with the community at KindlingsFest last week. Our heads and hearts are funny that way, aren’t they? We go from states of extreme joy and contentedness one week only to find ourselves walking in dry valleys the next.
Sticks and stones may break my bones…
In the past 24 hours, I’ve had certain abilities called into question and even my own sense of self marred. For those who know me, I’m a pretty confident person. Not in the sense that I’m all that, but in that I don’t let a lot of things eat away at my perception of self. I let comments roll off and keep moving. But today…man. I recently became the target of emails from a person with a metal illness who insisted I resign from my job, for “What qualifications do [I] have to be teaching religion or anything else for that matter? I can’t even choose a book for the Welcome bag.” This individual went on to call me a reprehensible snake, accuse me of being in the country illegally with false documents–something for which I was certain to get in jail. Now I know this all seems silly [and for the record: all false], but boy, do words hurt, no matter who they come from. That old playground saying, Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me, couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s something that happens when we speak [or write] a word or phrase or idea that gives it life. It goes from a thought in someone’s head to existing in the world. I suppose that’s why it’s hard to take back those things we’ve said to people, good or bad.
Ministry + finding a partner
After reading this person’s email to me and forwarding it to our staff so they were aware of the situation, I kind of lost it and found myself weeping and praying at the same time. Weeping because my heart hurt that there are people who don’t have the care and attention they need, and set themselves and others on a destructive path. How do you extend pastoral care and still take measures that also protect those in the congregation? I was partly grieved because I let myself take it personally. Even though what she wrote was delusional, words are still words.
I then started thinking about how daunting this call to ministry is. I’m just beginning my second year of seminary and though it continues to be a splendid season in my life, today I was reminded that life after seminary is probably going to look a lot different; and I’m starting to prepare myself for that. Today’s happenings are one of a slew of incidents and personalities I’ll encounter as a consequence of being called to love and serve God and neighbor.
Then I started thinking about what ministry looks like without a partner. And that kinda made me sad. For years, I’ve entertained the idea that I could do this all on my own–that having a partner/husband wasn’t all that important and being a single person was just fine. In fact, I’ve been pretty adamant about it. But this morning, one of the things I longed for most as I processed all of this was a partner with whom I could share all of this with.
So, where did all of this leave me? I rested in the assurance from 1 John 3:2:
Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.
We are works in progress, and there’s comfort in that. Our current selves–however highly or lowly we think–are not our final selves. And our current ideas of self are nothing in comparison to whose image we are created: God’s.
1 Corinthians 13:12 says:
12For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
We cast visions of ourselves, our work, our families, relationships, even ministry in ways that aren’t true reflections. We see and hear what we want to or what the world tells us. I make haste to the day when we can be our true selves, not relying on our own understanding or the affirmation of others; the day when we can reflect only the likeness of our Creator.