Monday, November 30, 2009

Boat in the Desert

I'm reading The Known World, a novel about a black slave owner. One of his slaves, Moses, describes these reflections on his situation:

Moses had through that it was already a strange world that made him a slave to a white man, but God had indeed set it twirling and twisting every which way when he put black people to owning their own kind. Was God even up there attending to business anymore?

That is somehow reassuring to me. I think it helps me appreciate that millions of people before me have felt this way.

The last month has been a lot to deal with. After my son's hospital stay, my husband and I have had a few opportunities to investigate possible career paths. Nothing has yet come to fruition, and there has been some frustration along the way. The net effect is a clearer sense of what ministry setting seems best suited to my husband's gifts, and heightened tension in the present situation (and the foreseeable future).

Is God up there attending to business? Noah must have asked the same question as he built an enormous boat in the desert.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


A few months ago, some kind soul reading this blog recommended Reading the Psalms with Luther to me. Thank you.

It’s been a great resource for me. I’ve long heard people describe the Psalms as expressing every human emotion, giving God-pleasing words to even the most difficult life experiences.

I used to be mystified by the appeal of this. The Psalms struck me as a little excessive. I’m a great fan of keeping things in balance, especially emotions.

After the events of the last year or so, emotional balance escapes me, and now the Psalms feel exactly right. The Psalms of Lament--those that complain to God of deep sadness or anger--are almost spooky in how accurately they describe my feelings.

One of the things that confounds me about the current frustrations is that reconciliation escapes us. Multiple attempts to talk with the people who’ve hurt us have met with no success, no connection. I keep thinking of this: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). I appreciate how this admonition defines the limits of my responsibility -- as far as it depends on you. I cannot neutralize a toxic situation involving many people. I can contribute as much good juju as God grants me, and then pray for Him to give good juju to everyone else involved. So far, the supply seems to be insufficient.

Complaining to God helps. Reading the Psalms with Luther includes a short introductory explanation to each Psalm, and I skim for phrases that say things like “prayer ... of one imprisoned” (Psalm 142) or “the psalmist ... is nearly pressed to despair” (Psalm 143).

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;

light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,

lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”

lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;

my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord,

because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Psalm 13

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Head Over Everything

And God placed all things under [Christ's] feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:22-23)

Clearly, God loves the church. I can get my feelings hurt, be depressed, feel like everything is going backwards and upside down, but God loves his church. He will be faithful to us.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


You might not guess it from reading this blog, but I am hesitant to be angry. I’m not sure that “slow to anger” expresses it accurately. I get angry in a hurry, but I am diplomatic and talk myself out of feeling or expressing anger. There are two sides to every story; cut them some slack -- they are trying to do the right thing; everyone has a bad day.

Talking to myself that way is an effective method of getting through everyday frustrations. I don’t ascribe malice to store clerks who are rude, or to friends who occasionally forget something important to me.

Sometimes, though, anger is the only thing. These days I lie awake at night having completely interior rages. I am furious, outside myself, that a narcissistic control-freak is calling the shots at our church; that he seems to lack the capacity to express pastoral concern toward many people, that a large portion of the staff and congregation seem emotionally and spiritually parched. That his wife is an ambulatory abcess of festering anger, blame, and manipulation who calls my husband in the room when she wants to lance a boil. For us to remain here means that Husband will continue to be abused and manipulated, though he guards against it much better than he used to. For us to leave means that God cannot use Husband to strengthen the very significant weaknesses in this congregation.

AND, above-mentioned unacknowledged weaknesses of sr. pastor mean that MY FAMILY will move to yet another church, settle in yet another community. That my son may well attend five different schools before he is 6 years old, this child whose particular anxieties reach their peak when stability and predictability are removed. It also means that my three-year-old's ruptured appendix will not be the most memorable thing about late 2009. I thought I'd have the sort of life in which that would rank as THE MAJOR TRAUMA of the year.

Deep down I trust that God is with us and we will be ok, but when I picture moving anywhere, I imagine plowing through the big transition and then arriving, settling, and sitting alone in my new house wishing I were not me. God would be with me there. I know it would end after a while, that I would make friends and adjust to wherever we are, but it seems like that would be a long way from here, with a deep valley in between.

For all that, I also feel compassion for Mr. and Mrs. senior pastor. I know they are miserable and stressed and probably feel trapped much as I do. I'm sure that they love God and want to serve Him.

Someone has described my situation as “a tight spot.” An accurate and generous phrase, I’d say.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Be In The Light

Rumors are spreading outside our congregation that Husband is being forced out by leadership. Senior pastor wants to prepare a statement addressing this rumor. The statement he proposes is, of course, intended to redirect attention.

What about the fact that THE RUMOR IS TRUE? Maybe if it’s a big problem for people to suspect what is true, then YOU SHOULD NOT DO IT, MACHIAVELLI!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Personal Kickboxer

The day is not going as well as I’d hoped. It looked good on paper yesterday, but now I’m having a hard time doing anything. The tasks are simple errand-running sorts of things. Now that it’s time to head to the store, I dread having to make decisions, to anticipate the week ahead and know what I’ll need.

This is really dumb.

I am averse to emotional drama, so I try to step around intense feelings. I used to pride myself on being pretty mellow and even-keeled. I still look that way from the outside -- friends tell me they can’t read what kind of day I’m having until they ask a direct question. But there’s a kickboxer in my head who is doing serious internal damage.

I’m sure that’s why I write. I am not much of a yeller (sorry, kids! I save that just for you!), I tend to cry only under specific, limited circumstances. Writing is the only way I am able to make the insane fits in my head seem real.

My goal for the day has shifted from checking off the stuff on my list to this one item: Do not go to bed. When it’s so hard to focus on one thing, or to generate the confidence that I’ll be able to do any one thing, going to bed feels safe.

I wrote these paragraphs a few hours ago and now, re-reading it, can see that it wanders and is pretty vague. I can’t quite see how to sort it out.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Back to Work

Thank you so much to everyone who has been praying for our family. Our son is doing very well and is back to his usual happy, playful self. I am so thankful for the excellent care he has received and for the dozens and dozens of people who supported us through an especially difficult few weeks.

It seems like that medical emergency should be the peak of stress for the fall, but unfortunately it isn't. We are in the middle of a mountain range, and the only way out is to keep bagging peaks. Before the hospital episode, I felt like I'd reached an emotional flatland, where I could get a handle on things. The adrenaline rush of the last few weeks destroyed that.

A hopeful sign: I have lately become acquainted with another pastor's wife with whom I have crossed paths off and on for a few years. She is a delightful person who seems to have a sense of humor about some of the parish-life issues that make me crazy.

Today is a pretty good day. Some things seem to be in order for now. My husband and I seem to be on about the same page. I know what I'll be doing tomorrow and it involves a short list with things I can cross off by the end of the day. For now, one day at a time.