It was so great to not have to write about Jesus for a whole week. Or even think about him much. Such freedom to write about grief, sex, longing, and my dog, and not have to think about what Jesus would say, or do, or feel, or even if he existed in the same ways that he is remembered. What a gift to not have to put my words through the sieve of “do I really believe this?” and “what will my congregation think?”
I loved being at Kenyon College with my tribe for the Kenyon Writers Institute Beyond Walls. The people at the Institute were other clergy and crazy religious types so I didn’t have to explain to them what I do or what it’s like. I didn’t have to wade through their preconceptions of a pastor and then redefine my role for them. Yes, women in my tradition can be ordained. Yes I can get married. Yes my work is meaningful – and sometimes boring and frustrating. No, I don’t just sit and think important thoughts and counsel people. I also call the exterminator when the ants are back, worry about a balanced budget, and negotiate with the Boy Scouts their use of our building. And I didn’t have to deal with the constant barrage of how the church is dying or get overwhelmed by ways to make worship zing. What a relief.
And I didn’t have to talk about Jesus. I have nothing against Jesus. I know some people talk about him as a confidant, a bosom buddy. They sing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and really mean it. For me, Jesus is a more troublesome companion. He at once demands everything and claims that his yoke is easy.
When I got back to the church, the most important thing I did was visit a woman who was dying and her family. We didn’t talk about Jesus at all. We talked about who she had been, about their family, her progressive illness, their experience in these final days. I read scripture. We prayed.
We didn’t talk about Jesus at all.
Welcome to the bloggers’ world!!
I loved this. I had a counselor once who was a “religious counselor”. She didn’t advertise herself as such though. She didn’t want to make herself a target for those whom judged or wanted to be judged. I always thought it was a shame she was my counselor because I thought she would be an amazing friend. We had that whole “ethical professional relationship” thing and I knew it was always in the cards that though we were “friendly” we couldn’t be friends. If it were possible to be friends I’m sure the challenge would be that she knew so much about me, and I knew very little about her. I know she was much more than just a psychologist, but if we were friends would we find a relationship that revolved around other topics.
I often wonder if religious leaders feel similar . Do they have to go outside of their congregation or community to be able to breath a bit easier. Do they ever get to just be “John” or “Jane” that needs to be inspired instead of inspiring?
I know as a member of a wonderful congregation that’s blessed with a very down to earth leader that I would be blessed to have as a friend I always wonder about those things. It’s a challenge and I think important to remember that our religious people that are growing and learning every day as we are. They have a lot of the same emotions and struggles, and they may some times need to leave their professional cloak on the coat rack for a bit. It must be hard though.
Thank you for being you and for inspiring me in regards to Jesus and just about life in general. ❤
You’re my first comment! Thank you. Figuring out the boundaries of my relationships with folks in the church is ever-evolving for me. I’m finding myself more open about myself and more open to friendships with folks in my church than I’ve been in other places. But friends for me outside the church are absolutely indispensable! There are simply things I won’t share with folks in the church because I think it would make our relationships too complicated.
Melissa, this looks great, and I like your first post. It reminded me of a John Spong story. He talked about making a hospital call, and having a wonderful visit, that felt deep and holy and real, and then “blowing it” by asking if the person wanted to end the visit with prayer. Not that prayer is a bad thing, but it can, in the same way over- pious God and Jesus talk can, cheapen the moment. We don’t have to say everything! Peace, Darrow
I’m guilty. I thought the ant problem always took care of itself. 🙂
if only that were so. 🙂
Yeah, I guess that Jesus would be way more complicated than God. Great first post. And blog title is awesome!
Thanks, Erin. And thanks for the conversation tonight!
Love the title of your blog and your first post. I thought one of the best parts of Beyond Walls was being with other clergy and spiritual types who understood the balancing act between being friendly with church members and being everyone’s friend. How much do we really reveal? Where are the healthy boundaries? Thanks for opening up this topic.
Thanks for reading my blog. Hope your post Kenyon weeks have been good.
The ever evolving discussion with ourselves about who we really are and of what value my contribution in the world can make is nice to take out of my head. The discussion is vital. It makes it more real and therefore more dynamic. If something stays in my head it doesn’t count for much. So I’m a “deep thinker” big deal. But if I were to be a dynamic “be”er – a person who influences her environment by being fully present and available to those around her – to, on occasion. be the example of what someone may need – and at other times be open to the example of others – THAT is living – THAT is growth. That is what I am called to step into. You happen to be one of those people who often fall into the ultra-cool-example-types. And I thank you for that.
The name of your blog is AWESOME! 🙂 You inspire me – does that make me an “Earley Riser”? 🙂
Hi Melissa, I loved your reading your thoughts. I love your blog and the title is perfect. I am thrilled to be an “Earley Riser” and and “Earley Adopter”.
I came to NUMC through my daughter (youth group) and my husband’s wish to support her. It was a blessing to find this wonderful, sincere, compassionate, intellectual congregation, and then a double blessing to have you arrive as the pastor. Yes, I find my relationship with Jesus to be complicated, he’s loving, life is good, and yet horrendous things happen, now I’m angry but anger makes me feel guilty and I don’t want that either. You have helped me to find some peace and acceptance and clarity. Thank you for being an inspiration, a spiritual guide, a support and source of courage and a true friend. I’ll be looking forward to your next blog posts!
Glad you liked it.