…Sometimes. There are times in my life when the call to ministry is just too much. The idea of being a pastor is the most empty feeling I know. Today is one of those days. Yesterday, January 6th, was officially the Epiphany of our Lord. Today consequently was Epiphany Sunday at church. I am not preaching today, I am not assisting today. Today, I am just Dawn. There are days when Just Dawn is the most empty feeling I know too.
I went to service today, not because I wanted to. I went because there are times in my life when getting before my Lord is what I know I need to do rather than what I want to do. Not because I am sinful and in need of reconciliation (although that is always the case, because being a human is complex), not because I need to be around people who themselves worship our Lord (although that is always a good feeling), and not because someone or something told me I had to go (although I am thankful to my parents for introducing me to Jesus at such a young age). No, I went because my Abba understands me. Actually, my Abba is the only person who understands me to the core of my being. I went to service today because I am empty…and I didn’t even realize it until I got to the communion rail.
I sat on the back pew with a senior couple who has been a great encouragement to me in my walk toward the pastorate. After greeting her and exchanging niceties I told Mrs., “I just don’t have it today. I really need an attitude adjustment.” She replied, “It’s okay, you don’t need an attitude adjustment, God still loves you. Some days you just have to say ‘screw it!’” I said, “Really? Because I’m actually pretty sh**ty today, you know.” “It’s okay,” she said, “really.” I thanked her for permission to just be sh**ty and sit on the pew beside them. And yes, I cussed in church. Get over it. God already knows my heart.
At some point, as my head rested on the back wall and my eyes were closed with tears streaming down my face, with no words spoken, I felt a hand put a tissue in my palm. Without a word I accepted it. We all continued on with worship. During the passing of the peace Mr. hugged me and whispered in my ear, “Whatever it is Dawn, it will be okay.” I didn’t reply, but I did receive the word. Deep in my heart. Because I have to believe it. If not, what is all this hocus pocus about salvation and grace and unconditional love all about? I continued through the service intently and intentionally listening to every word spoken, sung and read. I tried my best to take it all in.
As I knelt to receive communion I noticed I was crying, all I could muster was, “I’m empty Lord. Fill me up.” After repeating this a few times I left the rail to return to my seat, hedged in by Mrs. and Mr.
The minister in me knows I was called to congregational leadership many years ago. During my life God allowed me to walk down many roads. Some were paved and some were gravel. No matter what road I was on I knew God was with me. That knowing is a gift. Yes, I read about it in my Bible and have been witness to the presence of the Almighty at work before my eyes, but there are days when what I feel is so far removed from what I know that I just don’t want to be in ministry.
My life has been a brutally beautiful mess the past eight years. My family has been hit with a battery of heinous experiences and some of us have not recovered. Well, none of us has really, but we are making it as best we can and God’s grace continuously abides with each of us, whether or not we acknowledge it. That’s God’s unconditional and radical love for us.
One of my children was baptized on Epiphany Sunday many years ago (which recalling this is what started my spiraling this morning, it’s again Epiphany Sunday). I chose the baptism date on purpose. Today that child is atheist. They recently told me they never really believed in God. I wonder if they really had any chance to explore it on their own, in between years of paternal physical abuse and subsequent run-ins with the law. The faithful mom in me knows they are a child of God and the door to the Kingdom remains open wide, always.
One of my children is LGBTQ+. When they first came out the church robbed us of a spirit-filled life. They were a musician in the youth group and we were active in adult groups, our youngest in their own youth group and I had not yet answered the call to the pulpit. Needless to say the faith life of my family began to crumble right before my eyes. Divorce was not far off and our youngest was caught in the storm of a broken home life. We scattered like ants at a picnic.
So, some days being a minister is too much to embrace. Some days being a mom is so filled with heartache I lose my words and the sorrow is overwhelming. Some days living in a world where we do such horrible things to each other, in the name of God and/or Jesus, I can only cry. Today was one of those days. Thank goodness Mrs. and Mr. gave me a safe and comforting place to receive God’s love.
When I left church my heart was still so heavy and when I got home I took to my discipline of sitting outside to find the presence of God in nature. It was a challenge because it’s January and the sun is not high in the sky. It is twenty-six degrees and windy outside. I’m lonely. I’m hurting. I’m empty and I need healing.
As I sat in the chair overlooking nature I noticed my bamboo wind chime still hanging from summertime. I listened to the knocking of the pieces and also noticed how they are laid out: three vertical pieces and one horizontal piece stretching across behind them all, a long string and a weight at the bottom. As I began reviewing my worship experience and thinking about my life, my eyes focused to the one vertical piece in the middle and the horizontal piece stretched out behind the others. Jesus. Jesus is present with me, in my wind chime, reminding me He’s “got this.” I’m here Dawn, I’m with you and your children and your family and your congregation and Mrs. and Mr. and those who call me Lord and those who don’t. I’m here with you all, I’ve never left you and I never will. Yes, the Kingdom door is open and you can come beside me with or without your attitude adjusted. Ya’ know what, don’t bother adjusting anything. Just come to me. Bring your tears, bring your emptiness, bring your questions.
Some days I have nothing to give. So, for today, I live in the gift of receiving. ‘Tis better to receive sometimes. I realize that the same God who ushered me into pastoral ministry is the same God who gives me permission to not lead but follow for a day.
(c) DawnBennettSpeaks 2018