Many thanks to the friends who've brought or sent balloons, gift cards to Dairy Queen, games and other thoughts and prayers our way. We appreciate it very, very much.
Monday was a pretty rough day. It is so hard to watch your child wheeled off into surgery, as some of you know only too well. Then, after they take your child away, you've got nothing but time. Lots of time to think about lots of things.
The first thing I realized is how blessed I am to not have to do this alone. Beloved and I worked really hard to support one another all day. Lots of compliments, lots of "you're doing great," lots of hugs and kisses (nothing inappropriate - we weren't at Seattle Grace, after all). I don't know how anyone could do this parenting thing by themselves. If you know a single parent, hug him/her and ask how you can help, because, damn, this stuff is hard enough when you've got a partner in the yoke with you.
And, of course, because there's not a lot to occupy the mind in the hospital, there was a lot of thinking about the Unbloggableness. Trying to understand what has happened, and how, is exhausting - there's no way around it. Factor in dealing with the emotional part of it, the anger and the grief and all the attendant internal conflict that goes with both, and the weariness can seem overwhelming. I remember a conversation with a friend when she was going through a really rough time - she compared it to trying to walk out in the ocean when the tide is coming in. We called it "riding the waves." You think you've got your head above water, and all of a sudden the sand drops out from under your feet or a wave knocks you down and drags you farther out to sea. You're treading water and you're never sure when it's going to end. I understand her better now - boy, do I ever.
I read John Matthew's Anxious Souls Will Ask...: The Christ-Centered Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer while we were in the hospital. (Yes, I'm a fast reader, but it's a short book) I'm finding more and more truth in what Bonhoeffer was contemplating and writing, even to his last days. Ten years of resisting Nazi prejudice and oppression left Bonhoeffer and all members of the Confessing Church with few friends, but those they had were bound together so strongly they literally embodied Christ for one another, even in the darkest days. I can't begin to imagine the mental and emotional exhaustion they carried for all those years.
What I'm getting at is this: it can be lonely out there. It seems obvious, I know - but for those of us who follow Jesus, it is nigh on impossible to do it by ourselves. We need each other, and we need each other 100%. Knowing that Beloved and I are 100% committed to getting through this week and helping our Ainsley get healthy again makes the load bearable. Bonhoeffer took much solace in knowing that Bethge, his fiance Maria and many co-conspirators were shouldering the load with him. We need that from one another. Bonhoeffer identified it as the communion of saints, "Christ-as-community." This is the task of the church in relation to itself: the bearer of burdens, the Christ who stands under the yoke with us.
And yet, there are times this pastor gig is unbearably lonely. You carry so many different stories in your head and heart, and all of them are important. But some of your stories have to stay your own. The pastor-congregation relationship is not a two-way street. Of course, the congregation can and should care for and about the pastor. They can and should offer some soul care. But you can't flip the roles. It just isn't healthy.
This is an extremely long way of saying I haven't done as well for myself as I should have done in the area of my personal pastoral care. I realized this last week, when thoughts of the Unbloggableness left me unable to think about much else for the better part of a couple of days. I've taken some short term steps to help, and I'm looking into long term solutions as well, because I haven't been the pastor I want to be for the past six months or so. There are so few places where I'm simply a trusted, valued member of the whole, no different than anyone else - I need to find more of those places for myself, so that where I am the pastor, I can do it with integrity and passion. As Bonhoeffer wrote in "After Ten Years,"
Are we still of any use? What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, straghtforward [people]. Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves remoreseless enough, for us to find our way back to simplicity and straightforwardness?
Simplicity and straightforwardness. Yeah. Haven't had that in a while. Time to be about it again.
Grace & peace,