Today was a first in what will be a very long goodbye. As I make plans to head out east after Bob and I get married that will inevitably mean that I must leave my current call. To do that, I have to say goodbye to small pieces of my job one at a time. As I give those pieces away I am finding a renewed sense of gratitude for the work I have been allowed to do over the past few years.
Today I met for what may be the last time with a group of first call pastors. Every month we gather together to pray, to gripe, to share joys and fears, and to really know each other. I can’t tell you how much joy I have had getting to know this fine group of folks. I’ve noticed that we all struggle with the complexities of being leaders in communities as we wade through the messiness of everyone’s lives. But when we come together, battle wounds showing, bruised and tattered, with an honest accounting of where we have slogged, we make fast and true friends of each other.
It takes strength to be vulnerable. It takes guts to admit in front of God and those that you secretly suspect have their act together way more than you ever will, that you feel like a poser. It takes maturity to leave behind the childhood habits of competition and score keeping. It takes courage to share our selves.
Some things that I have learned in this call that I will carry with me:
- It is completely normal to feel like you are inadequate for the job. Everyone has an expectation that when you are ordained that you have it all figured out, as if our massive debt load we accumulate at seminary automatically accumulates pastoral wisdom. It doesn’t. Wisdom only comes with time and experience. Even with experience there will be times when we are knocked down by the unexpected.
- Being able to be vulnerable with colleagues that you can trust is essential to your personal growth. Putting up a front with colleagues essentially cuts you off from the most valuable, life saving, people you have around you. Colleagues can offer support and guidance, challenge assumptions, and provide an outside perspective. Find peers and mentors that can be honest and vulnerable as well.
- Never stop learning. Use your study to study. Engage with the world broadly. Get exposed to a wide range of perspectives and ideas. Don’t be afraid of people who think drastically differently than you. They will help you to sharpen your own perspective and you just might find something new that is well worth your time and energy.
- Pray. Use words, don’t use words, it doesn’t matter. You are a spiritual leader. Explore your spiritual life. Find others interested in living this spiritual life to be in community with.
So, thank you colleagues. You have taught me far more in the past few years than I have the time or energy to share in this short blog. Thank you for being life savers, for sharing full belly laughs, and for being cheer leaders. But thank you most of all for sitting in the silence together and wading through the muck. Christ shows up in each and every one of you when you pull up to the table. And may each of us be blessed to go out and be a blessing.