Saturday, July 11, 2009

Confusion and Affirmation

Earlier this week I spent an hour or so with the committee which oversees my movement, such as it is, toward ordination in the Presbyterian church. In another three weeks they will recommend to the Presbytery, which is our regional governing body and oversees such things, that I move on to the next step.

I don't know what other such meetings for other inquirers (that's what I'm called at this stage) are like. My last two have been mostly about my son's death and its aftermath. The members of the committee are extremely supportive and I am extremely honest. I think it has helped to keep up with my Desert Year blog, as I am not disturbed by questions about how I manage my work, what kinds of accommodations professors have offered me, how we are planning to mark the one-year anniversary, how I take care of myself.

Someone asked me at one point what I thought they should be asking me. That was a good question, and one I had not anticipated. Later, I thought of two things.

What is it like, to survive this kind of loss?

You learn to to live with constant pain. There is nothing that happens, nothing that anyone says, that doesn't remind you of something. When your Hebrew professor says in the middle of class that you can remember how to pronounce the word for "tent" (oh-hell) if you have ever spent the night in a tent during a rainstorm, your mind immediately moves to a night on a canoe trip in Algonquin Park which you have not thought about for years, and the drying-out routine the morning after, and your son's good-humored laughter. The laughter you had been foolish enough to count on hearing for the rest of your life.

As pastors, what should we know, what should we say, when we go to the home of a family where the sudden death of a child has occurred?

You shouldn't say anything, really. You should begin with, "Tell me about your child," and then you should listen. And you should keep listening, for months and years. You won't have the time, and if you have children of your own it will be too hard, but you should do it anyway.

I don't know why I didn't think to say those things. Maybe because I didn't think they were being asked. It's often hard to guess where people are in their curiosity. Most of the time, they seem to be nowhere close to the reality and, regardless of their genuine concern and interest, or perhaps because of it, it feels as if it would be cruel to fill them in. Better to live without this knowledge for as long as you can.

As we talked, I thought about my best friend at seminary. A vibrant, energetic woman, bursting with gifts for ministry. I thought, Her enthusiasm would fill this room. I should be her.

And then one of the gentlemen, a retired minister, said, We are hearing a lot of good things here, and I just want to say, I would love for you to be my pastor.

Go figure.

(Cross posted at Desert Year.)


Daisy said...

Well, there you have it. It's very reassuring to hear that retired minister say that, GG.


Anonymous said...

As to the last phrase, and so would I.
Blessings and God's love to you,


Michelle said...

I'd be a third vote. Enthusiasm that lights up a room is one gift, presence in the midst of excruciating pain is another. The latter burns slowly and long, and offers the tiniest bits light and warmth for the cold journey.

mompriest said...

They say it's a calling, a God thing, this vocation to ordination. I suspect those listening to you hear God speaking through your words, your pain, your loss, your hope, and it is speaking directly into the broken places in their lives. Pastors do this. Even if all we are really doing is listening.

Stratoz said...

yes, those answers that come later. I am glad that they too approve of you.

Daisy said...

GG, it occured to me that my comment might sound like I'm glad that someone confirmed whether or not you should be a pastor. That's certainly not what I meant to say. What's reassuring is that there is someone with experience and authority who recognizes a gem when they encounter one. I'm happy for that.


Quotidian Grace said...

I'm so pleased you're having such a positive experience with the process. God bless those involved!

Law+Gospel said...

It is wonderful to read that you have been recommended. I am glad you have found solace in your writing and have been greatly nourished by your willingness to teach each of us in the midst of your process. That is a gift. And you have a remarkable gift for deep reflections. And you feel the intensity of experiences and can put words to them in ways many cannot. To all of that, you have the hard gift of appreciating compassionate presence and listening. Yep- I would love such a pastor!

Jan said...