Interesting places I suppose, would be the somewhat cryptic and flippant answer. But in truth I’m not entirely sure how else to describe it. So far this fall, I have become involved with a wonderful young woman in a relationship that probably was not a surprise to anyone else but me. My son has started 7th grade and is dealing with depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts and other such joys of middle school. I’ve been dealing with stress and anxiety that may be behind what put me in the hospital for about 5 hours the other day on suspicion of having a heart attack. I’m due to be ordained a minister in just over a week and a couple months after that take over as co-pastor in my local congregation. I have hit a rough patch in my relationship with my best friend and am struggling to figure out how to move forward in love and friendship without causing any more pain to him as it appears to be largely my fault we got to this place to begin with. There are family issues, health issues, friendship issues, work issues and other issues, but when is there not?
I still have a job, a roof over our heads, good friends and family, food on the table and a life filled with other numerous blessings. I am finding time to spend in quiet prayer and study. I am hanging out with my son more as we try to figure out how not to kill each other, even as it seems both our lives pick up speed. My girlfriend lives just across the hall so I get to see her everyday. I am surrounded by loving examples of God’s love for each of us and I thank God for it each day.
That does not mean I don’t struggle. I am stressed about my son, although I think we have him in a good place at the moment, there is a part of me that struggles with feeling a bit like a failure as we go from family therapist to school counselor to psychiatrist even though plenty of folks tell me I shouldn’t. We are both learning new coping skills and ways of handling stress although I think he is learning better than I am. I hope so at least. I would just as soon he not have as stressful a life as I have had the tendency to do to myself.
I struggle with how to be a better friend. I get nervous when people get too close, start exerting too much influence in my life, even when it’s my decision to allow that to happen. As I’ve been reading up and learning about reactive attachment, which coincendently may be part of my son’s issue, I am surprised at how many of the qualities apply to my life. I don’t blame this for what has happened, but it has caused me to rethink how I have handled people getting close to me in times past. It causes stress to me when people I care about and who are close to me do not appear to approve of my choices and/or decisions, even if they do not feel strongly one way or the other, I have had a tendancy to put my own uncomfortableness onto them creating an unhealthy/unhelpful view of how things really are which makes it difficult at times to find solutions. I really would like close and healthy relationships with people and I have been getting help, counseling and training on how to do that, but don’t let anyone ever tell you this is something that comes naturally. Being in community, living in community is messy and hurts and is not easy. But the rewards of being in that sort of loving unity with other people is something that it worth giving up lots of other things for.
One of the challenges I suppose I face as I move forward is that I struggle with being vulnerable. I am a wounded person. I have scars, anger, hurt, loss and grief as part of the tapestry of my life. That has been part of what this blog is about. A safe, neutral ground to allow this stuff to get out.
But I am also a beloved child of God. I have value, am loved, and am of worth. The key is for me to be willing to accept that, not only from God but from those around me who are also part of the community I am a part of. Only in this way can I be a wounded healer. It is not up to me to be perfect or fine or for things to be 100% good in my life before I move out in ministry. This is true whether I am a priesthood member or not. The only thing priesthood does for me is allows me to broaden the way in which I serve the people around me. It doesn’t make me perfect or make me more spiritual or more deserving or something. It is a covenant between God and me and the denomination I belong to. It is a willingness to learn to be vulnerable, to serve, and in one respect to fail.
What I mean by that is to fail to rely on my own strength and instead rely on God. Part of the challenge I face is in letting go of the illusion of control over my life and place it in God’s hands. I am still responsible for my own actions, the good and the bad. But as a minister in the service of God it is not about me, or my desire for recognition or anything like that. It is about failing to be proud and wise and strong as the world tells us we ought to be. And it is about being humble and foolish and weak, so that what is shown through our lives is the power of God at work.
I don’t know yet exactly how to balance everything out on my plate at the moment. I will admit that. I don’t know that I am making the perhaps the best choice by accepting all this at once. I know I believe in my calling to the priesthood. It just took me not wanting to push for it to get here and now I have to figure out how to answer the call faithfully. I know that I cannot do it all as pastor or even co-pastor by myself, without all those around me and in my community. I will make mistakes, there will be stress and trials and I will see sides of people that will hurt me. But I also believe that God is with me as I move forward into this as well. Grad school is on hold at the moment and I’m okay with that. Work is lightening up my load to give me time and space to deal with things and is looking to get me additional co-workers to help carry my responsibilities. I am still on track to mix up my social calendar enough to open up more slots and am learning to say no with less guilt. My son and I are working together to become a better unit. We are both getting training and help from counselors, psychiatrists and therapists. At the end of the day I’m not entirely sure if I could do any more. I am sorry for the hurt I have caused and I will work to heal those rifts I have contributed to.
I am sure there is probably more I could say on all this, but this has already turned waaaaay more long winded than I planned. But I am equally sure that this next year is going to be amazing, challenging, joyful, stressful and filled with new things. May we share the path and walk the walk together in the light. Peace and blessings.