Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ministry is Grief


Without getting into too many specifics, this has been a hard week for me. Personal and professional concerns have weighed down on me. Sometimes I feel like I'm barely holding on while a swirling tornado rips apart everything I have spent my life building. (I watched "Twister" last week - it makes sense to me!) Some days the line between reality and nightmare is blurred. One of the best books I've read on ministry ("When the People say No") begins this way:

"To be a minister is to know the most searing grief and abandonment, daily and profoundly. To be a minister is to take as partners in solemn covenant those who are sure to renege. To be a minister is to commit, unavoidably, energy and passion, self and soul, to a people, to a vision of who they are born to be, to their readiness to share and live into that vision. To be a minister is to make that all-out commitment to a people who cannot possibly sustain it. That is the nature of ministry. The minister is called by their need, by their fundamental inability to be who they are born to be, by their fundamental inability to share and live into that vision in which the minister invests all. To be a minister, then, is to be forsaken, regularly and utterly, by those on whose partnership one most relies for identity, meaning, and selfhood. The minister's call is rebuffed and repudiated and grieved for, over and over again. For the minister is called by their need, by their fundamental inability to live into the vision and the compact into which the minister must live so totally. Ministry is called forth and occasioned by such grief and the emptiness of being nobody."

5 comments:

David said...

Charles, your post reminds me of Exodus 19-40 where Israel multiple times makes and affirms their covenant with God, breaks it anyways, and in a rare treat we get to see God working through the anger and hurt of people who will constantly let God down and the difficulty of this type of dedication (Exod 32-34). My favorite part in all of this is when God is unsure if God even wants to with Israel to Canaan (Exod 33) because of the frustration Israel has brought and that in spite of all this, God eventually chooses to be faithful to them in spite of their faithlessness and the book of Exodus ends with God indwelling the Tabernacle and going with them into Canaan. I guess all I am trying to say is God knows what you are going through. I hope this was able to offer some comfort.

Joe D said...

Charles,

Without KNOWING too many specifics, my only comment, consistent with the passage you quoted, is to say that in life and certainly in church work, the very people you are called to lead will abandon, mistrust and leave you. If you are not sure that this is the case, just ask Moses--- or Abraham--- or David--- or Paul---or Jesus!!

I suppose it is the nature of the beast and the nature of humans. I don't pretend to know why that the very people that you are called to lead will "bite" you, but those bites certainly do leave wounds and those wounds leave scars. I suspect that the number one enemy of leaders and church workers is cynicism--- likley brought on by years of bites and scars. I hope your wounds are shallow and that you find comfort, peace and healing.

Mark said...

"If you want responsibility, if you want the tough jobs, then you better be ready to stand up and take the criticism and all the anguish when things went wrong. If you can't take the blame-then you are not in a responsible job, no matter what the job title says. The big jobs involve risk of great personal criticism. The jobs worth having are the ones with the biggest downside and if you don't admit your own mistakes, you are not worthy of the trust given you." - Gen (Ret) Chuck Horner

Mark said...
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Liebe said...

As far as they are concerned, you only exist to serve them.

You give your heart and soul to them. Some give back good, some slap you in the face.

It is because you care so much that you are hurt so much. It is your gift and your curse.