Wednesday, October 2, 2013

And the valley was full of bones.

I got my paperwork back from my mission developer/redeveloper interview.

Mission developers and redevelopers are pastors and potential pastors, who are approved by the ELCA to start new congregations (developers) or revitalizing dying congregations (redevelopers).  The paperwork is a culmination of a personal inventory, a pre-screening, and a 3-4 hour interview on fifteen competencies of ministry which are strong predictors of a developer/redeveloper’s success.

I have been on the developer/redeveloper track since I began seminary in 2010.  I have read books, taken classes, attended lectures and conferences.  My internship site is a mission start congregation, just barely six years old this month.

And I got my paperwork, and I wasn’t approved.

I knew, during the interview, that there were questions I wasn’t doing well on.  There are competencies that I am not strong in.  I am, in particular, not good at sharing ministry; I tend to do everything on my own rather than asking for help.  This is a perfect recipe for burnout in a mission pastor.  So the results were not a total surprise.  I still wept.

I am tired.  I am cut down.  I am scraped raw.  I have been stripped of more things this year than I ever thought I could let go of.  I sit in my apartment, staring at the books that have borne me since I was in high school and the borrowed kitchen chairs I am not certain I fit in yet.

I feel skinned down to the bone.

Which is, of course, where God loves to start.

This is the annoying thing about Jesus, or at least one of the top five:  that my actions, my beliefs, my faith, even the fact that I have accepted being called to a life of ministry does not spare me from losing almost everything.  A few Christmases ago I preached that the baby Jesus is not a magic medallion that protects us from all evil.  This is stupid and frustrating and maddening, that I can be scraped down to my most raw; that God even wants me to be, wants to peel back all the carefully shined-up layers, the precision cut corners, the smokescreen of I Have It All Together and get down to the very raw and real me.

But this is where I am, and there is no question that God is here, and wants to be with me in all of it; that God is weaving gentle hands over the dried marrow of my life.  That Ezekiel is standing at the desert of my heart, while God whispers, “Mortal, can these bones live?”

This is where God likes to begin; down at the rawness, the barren essence of things.  Jeremiah the prophet tries to shut himself up and speak no more of the LORD, and his bones start to burn with the weariness of holding it in.

This is not the year that I had planned, in any way, and I am skinned down to the bones; but there is a freshness in being this open, and a beauty in the desperation, and I will let that hold me.

I passed understanding a long, long time ago
And the simple home of systems and answers we all know
What I thought I wanted, what I got instead
Leaves me broken and somehow peaceful
I keep wanting you to be fair
But that's not what you said
I want certain answers to these prayers
But that's not what you said
- Sara Groves, “What I Thought I Wanted”
What I Thought I Wanted by Sara Groves on Grooveshark

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