♪ I's feelin' near as faded as my jeans... ♫
Another good song...mmm...
Or, probably better, John 8:36: "He whom the Son sets free, is free indeed."
I've been feeling particularly...free...the last few days, and it's all good. Awesome-huge-o-Church-at-Home has been preaching on dreams and passions, and what we've been "made for." They keep asking the question, "What is your dream? What are you passionate about?" And for a while, I've been having to answer, "I don't know. I don't have any dreams. I'm not passionate about anything. I'm fine. With whatever."
But I didn't really like that feeling (I was feeling a little left-out, what with all my friends at home getting to have all these big dreams and I'm stuck out here on the prairie feeling...fine), so I started praying about it. God, give me a dream. God, show me something I'm passionate about.
Why am I always so surprised when God comes through for me? His mercies are new every morning, indeed. I mean, you'd think over time I'd start to remember and trust that He's got my back. Or maybe that "forgetfulness" increases the joy level, and keeps me from demanding God's action, keeps the relationship loving rather than contractual. I don't know.
Anyway...the point is...last week was the first week of our midweek worship services at this little country church. It's flippin' amazing that a church this size manages to pull off midweek worship year 'round (not just Advent and Lent), and I ♥ it. There's a little bit of contemporary worship music (guitar and piano type stuff, with some of the younger members of the congregation leading), then I get to teach for a few minutes (10-ish), adults break into groups and discuss while the kids mostly just run around and have fun, and then we close with more music. It's fabulous. And so last week, as I was there watching the adults have some great discussions with each other - spouses, friends, relatives - and even engage the kids some, I was just loving it. It was incredible watching them learn and grow and think and ponder.
And then the next day was the internship cluster meeting. This is a 2x/year meeting of all the interns and their supervisors from the area (by area I mean my entire state and half of the neighboring state...), and then a staff member of the closest seminary comes to lead the day. My seminary happens to be the closest one to us, and so they sent...well, the best person they possibly could. He works a lot with the internship program, is a total Jesus-guy, loves people, loves God, and is very, very wise. Nonetheless...the first thing we did was break up into groups of just the interns and just the supervisors to talk about what was good. What was surprising-in-a-good-way, what was most helpful, or the best thing about internship, or your favorite moment so far, or whatever.
I shared my observation about funerals, that even though they're a lot of work, and I complain about them a lot, that once I get through the pastoral care, and the planning, and the sermon-writing, and the funeral-home-coordinating, and the crud-I'm-going-to-have-to-do-laundry stuff, and once I'm standing at the back of the sanctuary, reading and praying and singing, and we walk in, and it's go time, then...wow. The LBW liturgy is beautiful here, really, really good. So steeped in Scripture, and the prayers are right on target, covering pretty much where everybody could possibly be at in their own mourning. And then, then, the graveside. Standing there at the intersection of...everything...life and death, God and mortals, death and resurrection, natural and supernatural...being the last person to place my hand on the casket and speak the Word of God over it. Just...incredible.
Anyway...a lot, lot, lot of other people shared something completely different. They were all, "I ♥ internship because I ♥ being a pastor. I can't imagine doing anything different. I can't believe I waited this long to do it. When I get to distribute the Sacraments, man, that's the best. When I got my letter from the bishop authorizing me to do that, I just...it was just like, 'wow, I can't believe they're going to let me do this.'" And on and on and on.
And I just stared at them, thinking, "W. T. H. are you talking about?" I just don't feel that way. At all. As I pondered the day's events on my drive home, it started to hit me. That's what being passionate about "being a pastor" looks like. And I am apparently not passionate about "being a pastor." It's...fine. I'm...fine.
That night, I had a good conversation with my pastor from home, and I was telling her all this. She does a little bit of the "general pastor" thing, but also some very specialized ministry that suits her well, and so she understands the whole "this is not my whole identity" thing. She was very supportive, and reminded me that it's perfectly okay to feel this way, and that in 6 months, I might feel completely different. Which is true. I might. I might be totally in love with this by February. Or I might not.
But just realizing the contrast between how I feel about "being a pastor" and how others feel has been so helpful and so encouraging. When worship started on Sunday morning (and here is where we get to the theme of the post), I felt so free. I just did it - prayed the liturgy, read the Gospel, preached, did communion (nailed the Words of Institution - the altar is against the wall, so I can't read them), and the whole thing. Getting to be open and honest with myself about the fact that I'm not super-passionate about this took all the pressure off. As a friend of mine said, when I was telling her about it on Sunday afternoon, "You don't have to try to make yourself love it." She's totally right. And that's been the most freeing thing of all. I can just...do it...and if I end up falling in love with it, then I do. But if I don't, that's okay too.
But I got to wondering...does God call us to things that are...fine? I get that we're not going to be all fired up and passionate about every thing we do, every day, no matter what our jobs are. But on the whole...are we called to be...fine...or on fire? And are there some aspects of life or specific jobs where it's okay to be "fine" and some where you really need to be "on fire"? There are plenty of good, Christian souls, today and throughout history, who just went about their daily lives loving God and doing the best they could to make it in world. They had normal jobs and normal families and normal lives. They went to church and prayed the prayers and read the Bible and partook of the Sacraments. And if you asked them what their "big dream" was, what God was calling them to, they would have said, "What's God calling me to? He's calling me to get these crops harvested before the snow flies so my kids don't starve this winter."
What do we do with, "Godliness with contentment is great gain"? Something to ponder.
Regardless...I'm feeling very free these days, and I love it.