Recently, thanks in large part to my dalliance with a rip current, I have taken some time to think about my place in life. And, wouldn’t you know it, in all that pondering I felt the urge to once again put fingers to keys and open up about it.
Life has certainly been busy, but it has been good. The church whom I serve is full of people I will not want to say goodbye to in thirteen short weeks, but alas, that day will come. Things have sped by already, faster than I could have imagined. And perhaps, what I have learned most to this point of my internship is how much my education has changed me. I don’t know what I would have said to myself three years ago if I knew this is what I would end up being and thinking like, but I know it wouldn’t have been kind. Hurt and pain have a way of coloring reality worse than it actually may be. And as I have long since said, my time at a Baptist seminary taught me just how much of a Lutheran I really am. And in these last nine months that has never been more apparent to me than ever.
Being a Lutheran, what that means and why it makes a difference, is a post for another time. I can honestly say, perhaps for the first time consistently, that I am proud to be a Lutheran. That the synod may have its warts but there is no other lot I want to counted among. And yet, I am coming to a deeper understanding of just how much that has changed me. Part of that has more to do with the reality that I am becoming a pastor. Everything that entails, teaching, visiting, preaching, leading worship, being there for people when there are other places I’d rather be, is a humbling reality. But more than that, I have come to an understanding that I can never go back to the way I was. Not because I think I was somehow inferior, but because I followed the rabbit down the hole and am realizing just how far down it goes.
I have a mind that doesn’t shut down, like I tell my wife, I wish I could shut it off but I can’t. Usually that isn’t a bad thing, but it has completely encompassed me. I can’t just sit and enjoy a worship service or a sermon or a book, I am constantly ripping it apart in my head. I don’t want to, it just happens. Part of that has to do with the fact that I am beginning to realize just what it means to be a pastor. Sometimes you have to be the bad guy. Sometimes, and I can’t believe I am about to phrase it this way, you have to defend the flock against the wolves.
But sometimes, I really do wish I could turn it off. I wish I could go back to the way it was before I took the pill that changed my reality. The musical Rent perhaps best captures what is running through my head in the song Sante Fe. It is about escaping the current reality the characters face in order to embrace a different life, one that just seems that much better.
And yet, I know the grass is never greener on the other side. I can’t believe I would actually like to forget everything I’ve learned, but I do wish I could shut it off from time to time. But that desire would benefit me, and nobody else. Because what I have been given, what I have been gifted both in my faith itself and in the ability to understand and communicate it isn’t for my sake alone. Gifts never are.
The fact of the matter is, the burden is mine to carry, for the sake of those around me. That is what life is like for each of us. The burdens we carry they aren’t just for our sake, but for those whom we love, those people we call our neighbor. And none of them, not one, compares to the gift we have been given in Christ, who bore the burden on behalf of the entire earth. And if the cup didn’t pass from him, it won’t pass from us either. The Christian life is not one of roses and gum drops where everything works out because you have been given faith in Christ on account of the work of the Holy Spirit. You will not have health wealth and prosperity. Because this life, it will pass. And when we go into the grave it will not be the last trip we make. That is the point. That is hte hope, that going into the grave means coming out again. Resurrection. Hope for eternity not for tomorrow. But that hope indeed gets me through tomorrow because whatever comes down the pipe, no matter what befalls us in our vocations, we have the hope that where Christ is we too shall be. And while sunny Sante Fe would be nice, it pales in comparison to the hope of what awaits.