Today

I wish I never had to wish time away. I’ve spent years wishing. 

The sooner today ends the better.

I keep singing “empty chairs at empty tables.” As the last of the stuff is removed from the house.

It is a lonely day, a day of rejection.

The fullness of rejection weighs.

Then I sing again, “when you’re loved by someone you’re never rejected”.

This is my mantra: I am loved, I am lovely, I am lovable.

Today I give myself permission to say it without the expectation of having to believe it.

I will resume the work of belief tomorrow.

Today, I will let you, my beloved community believe it for me.

Today I will hold fast to a God of grace and a God of glory.

I cannot sing praise today, I can only sit in silence and stare out the window of my house.

My house. 

No longer ours, but mine. Mine and the kids. Where we will be happy again. But not until tomorrow.

Because the sooner today ends the better.

 

Exhaustion

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“When leaders take back power, when they act as heroes and saviors, they end up exhausted, overwhelmed, and deeply stressed” ~Margaret J. Wheatley

Dagger. Heart. Twist.

Yes, Margaret J. Wheatley, who studies organizational behavior… who I want to ignore and write off as another “consultant” i.e. “those who can’t…consult.” Those who can’t be bothered to do the real work, like to stand on the outside and point in and tell us with “boots on the ground” everything we’re doing wrong.

Okay, this is not what consultants do (well not what good ones do) but this is what my brain thinks when I hear the word “consultant”. Much like “self-help” or “life’s purpose”. ugh!

The truth is every leader needs a refresher in leadership. Every one of us. As a pastor I am a manager of leaders AND a leader myself. It is the joke that in churches I am the lion to the land of misfit toys (Jesus is the lion BTW I’m a Charlie-in-the-box or something or maybe Jesus is Santa… okay back to the topic). Leadership in church is hard.

I lead a congregation, a staff, individuals with unique talents and gifts in all walks of life, governing boards, committees, all the while, “serving” them and God in this time and place.

I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

Yesterday, a parishioner entered my office and gave me a lecture on how I was taking on too much. She should know, she spent the majority of her married life married to a pastor. She has seen first hand what happens when we take on too much, take it personally, and invest to the detriment of everything else in life.

I am exhausted. And I am exhausted in the way Margaret J. Wheatley describes. I am also exhausted because life is sometimes exhausting. For the last several months my life and my beloved schedule has been turned and twisted. Sometimes for the better, sometimes the worse. My thoughts are moving in a thousand different directions. I go to work and I don’t know where to begin, I go home and worry about work, I sit to pray and end up feeling guilty about not getting to the grocery store because I had to work late, or my husband had to work late, and the kids need to be picked up, and dinner, and bedtime, and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Wake up and do it again.

Yesterday I was wondering how my cup could be so empty and so overflowing all at the same time. Then a friend reminded me that if we are not building relationships then what’s the point? Yes, yes. When did I stop remembering that “I” am not more important than “you”. That “you” are not more important than “me” and that none of us and no thing is more important than the God that is in and through and around.

I want to stop having people think I have somewhere more important to be. Starting with myself.

I want to invite God back into the conversation of vision and direction.

I want to be a leader that empowers, not just assigns tasks.

I know how to be this leader, it is when I forget and over function that I get this kind of exhausted. The exhaustion that cannot be slept away, because it is driven by anxiety, fear, and hopelessness. I am not hopeless, and neither is any situation I am working in right now. For in God, there is always hope. I believe this. I really, really do.

Renew me, merciful One, I alone will never be enough, thank goodness! You gave us a community and a little plot of space and time and asked us to work together. I am thankful for the exhaustion, the stress, the overwhelmed feelings, because without them, I would destroy myself and so many around me without even knowing it. Renew and refresh. So I may serve you and neighbor. Amen.

Integration

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How do you forgive, how do you heal?

This is a question that I not only have asked myself many times over in my life but people ask me on a regular basis. Forgiveness and healing are often at the root of why people turn to or against faith. I had a beautiful morning with a dear friend and this topics was discussed between us.  Here are some thoughts I have.

I cannot heal myself, neither can you heal me. The power of forgiveness and then the healing that comes from it can only be extended by God. Yes, you give into the healing power, but only God can actually do the healing and forgiving.  This of course begins with prayer, various forms of prayer and time. This is not to make you feel helpless, this is just a reality.  I am a smart woman, and I have a large ego, but there are some things I cannot will into existence.  I cannot command myself to forgive. I may go to therapy, talk to every person I know, do every exercise possible, but until I understand that healing and forgiveness cannot be achieved on my own, I will be stuck. (This is a lesson I have to relearn on a regular basis, by the way…)

Time is essential.  I was once told that I knew I had forgiven someone when I could think about the person or situation without negative feelings arising.  At the time I truly thought that was impossible. Years later, I can begin to see that is true. Time does not heal all wounds, but over time this “thing that just happen to me” shaped who I am.  Hopefully for the better, and that integration can be healing and should not be rushed.

Accept that you are changed. There are things that just happen to you. Shit happens, it doesn’t always have a purpose or a meaning, sometimes it’s just shit.  However, it changes us, each and every experience we have changes us. Accept this, incorporate it into your life, learn from it, grow from it, or express it. Don’t hide, let the secret out, don’t be ashamed, it just is, even if “it” is something you did wrong or are embarrassed about.  Talk, write, sing, jump, kick it out. Bottling these feelings of shame or joy will only eat you alive. Curse at God, love yourself through it. Know that you are different physically, emotionally, and spiritually from every relationship you have. Ones that are good and ones that cause harm.

Stay in relationship This is the hardest of all. If possible- let me repeat that- IF POSSIBLE stay in relationship with the person or people.  Healing comes through relationships. There is a reason why atoning for ones sins is in the 12 step program. The person may never know or understand how they have harmed you and that can be almost as, if not more, painful then the act or acts that took place. This is not possible with everyone. Some sins are harmful to your person and you need to break the relationship off. Then do it. This harm could be physical or emotional. Or the person may have died, or you don’t even know who they are.  This happens, healing can come from it, but in my experience it is harder. I hate that it is, but it is. Life may be “easier” by not being in relationship with them but at what cost? You have to decide this for yourself, is the weight of holding the hurt larger or smaller than the weight of being in relationship? This is not an easy question to answer and may take multiple trials and error.  

Essentially there is no easy answer (and I certainly don’t have them), healing is complicated, because it comes through love, the love of God. Forgiveness is an extension of mercy and again, only comes from God. So if there is something you are in need of healing from or for, let yourself off the hook to “fix it” as soon as possible, and open yourself up to the healing powers of grace. May it be so for you and for me…