Being now in a congregation that is warm, loving, and gracious is helping me interpret what was off kilter in our last church. I now realize how legalistic the place felt to me. I have often thought that sr. pastor seemed pharisaic, and when I woke from my dream tonight that was on my mind again.
I respect for the pharisees for their effortfulness. They desperately wanted to get it right so that God would love them. I think that's what motivates sr. pastor. He knows the Bible like no one I have ever met. He can whip out a verse for any situation. He works hard to make things happen and wants to align the universe in such a way as to please God.
At other times I have recognized how sad this is, but tonight I feel how tragic this is. The poor man has memorized the Bible and missed the point. God wants to embrace and comfort him and then use him to share God's gracious love with others. He is missing out on the blessing of God's grace because he is working so hard to do right.
Tonight that seems to me an even more desperate situation than a major depression.
The congregation where my husband is now the pastor has expressed no expectations except these two: That God has brought Husband here to care for them and that God is working among them.
It is a stunning blessing to be with people who trust God so thoroughly. It makes me realize that in our last congregation it felt like there were specific expectations about what Husband would be or do, and when he disappointed those the leaders' confidence in God's faithfulness waned. Husband was accused of not listening to the Holy Spirit and of lacking pastoral judgment. I described this accusation to someone recently and she reframed it as "spiritualizing controlling tendencies."
While we were there, those accusation bred doubt in our hearts about our relationship with God and Husband's call to serve as a pastor. Now those same accusations cause me grief for them. How sad, how desperate, to have so little confidence in God's faithfulness.
The pastor who preached at Husband's installation reminded me that there will be challenges and seasons of frustration or unhappiness here, but that "it seems this may be a place of mercy and grace." What else could I possibly hope for? We are weak and broken and sinful, living among people who are likewise. Mercy and grace is what I most crave.