Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Stuck, Stuck, Really Stuck

I think I made a big mistake.

I was feeling better ~ not a lot, but enough. I was thinking that last year at this time, every class, every comment ~ whether by someone else or by me ~ basically every minute back in seminary was followed by the thought "I can't do this; I need to withdraw right this second" ~ and that those feelings have receded. I was thinking that I was more or less all right, and so ~

I stopped being hyper-vigilant with respect to everything coming my way, and so ~

I was completely unprepared for Advent.

It is hard. It is so hard.

It is hard to be in church every Sunday for my internship. It is hard to be taking a class in which the professor has decided that we should begin each morning with an Advent hymn so that we can analyze it for mission-related components. (OK, well, I've decided that I need to be late for every class.) It's hard to read and see all the things that used to give me such delight. It's hard to imagine buying gifts or decorating a tree.

Yesterday a friend told me about the pleasure she had found in preparing an elaborate holiday buffet for a large group of friends last week-end. I used to enjoy things like that, but now I just want to send my 150-year-old heirloom china flying out the window so that I can hear it smash on the sidewalk.

Hmmm. I just looked back at what I've written and thought: people might think I have finally lost it. But truthfully, I am doing well, all things considered.

I just would prefer to be someplace like Mars. (Just not so cold.) And it seems that instead I agreed, in a moment of foolish optimism some weeks ago, to preach a sermon on January 3.

So any of you experienced preachers out there, if you want to share how you managed to share good news in which you actually believe during a time in which it seemed you could not put one foot in front of the other (although in fact you did, every day) ~ please: weigh in!


Cynthia said...

You know I have no advice, but I pray for you and your family daily. I have the utmost confidence in your ability to handle this. BTW, I'm not decorating this year, and I'm only buying gifts for the now grown and almost grown kids in the family.

Magdalene6127 said...

When my marriage was unraveling I was an interim associate pastor, preaching about once a month. The sermon I posted for last Sunday is a whittling down of a sermon I preached then.

I basically took the opportunity to preach to myself-- what I wanted/ needed to hear. I reassured myself. I think we preaching types probably do this a lot-- I know I do. But... at the time I found it somewhat therapeutic.

Going into advice-giving at this point: does the church you serve have a Blue Christmas/ Longest Night service? If not, why not approach this sermon from that perspective, go off lectionary if need be? If the pastoral staff are agreeable, of course. Just a thought.

Just looked at the lectionary texts... the Jeremiah might offer something. The John 1 passage... might or might not feel possible. I hear you saying that the darkness is indeed overwhelming.

Blessings, friend.

Joan Calvin said...

Maybe, just maybe, people need to hear more than everything is just perfect. I think we have too much of a tendency to put on a happy face and not share the pain or doubts we are suffering/have. I don't know. You are in my prayers.

Quotidian Grace said...

I'm sad to read this, but not surprised. You're not alone in finding Advent and Christmas intensify your feelings of grief and loss.

It would be very hard to preach through it--you are getting good advice from those who have been there and done that. I have been there, but not had to preach!

Blessings, my dear friend.

Presbyterian Gal said...

~Go out and buy one small ornament or decoration. Just for you. Something you find cheery and just yours. And put it somewhere your eyes will fall on it, but not to distraction.

~For preaching happiness, all I got is, you've known it before and you will know it again. Your just traveling through the empty part of the chain link right now. This is often how I experience God.

Stushie said...

I've preached the other side of John the Baptist during Advent. Instead of the strong, fearless and fiery preacher preparing the way for the Messiah, I've wept from the pulpit and talked about John alone in the darkness of Herod's dungeon beginning to doubt that Jesus is the Christ. Why else would he ask these words:
Matt 11:2-3

2 When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"

Pain and doubt, fear and anger are part of Advent, too, for how would we know the Light without the Darkness?

Betsy said...

16 years ago, on the day after I sat at the bedside of my mother in law as she died, I preached on the gospel appointed for the day: Jesus healing Peter's mother in law. I was still in shock, but not enough not to be very angry and confused. Why did Jesus do it for Peter but not for me and my family? And that's what I preached about, a lot more raw and less polished than usual, and certainly with no useful conclusions but rather a collection of thoughts. I recall that I discussed healing vs. cure as one of those. I am sure people in the congregation--those who more greatly valued my composed and calm self--were not thrilled, but their were others for whom the truth in that moment was a relief.

That time was not a darkness and weight like yours, but it came clearly back to mind in reading your post.

Stratoz said...

I've got an extra 50 pound bag of stoicism around here somewhere. a gift from my parents. surely I could hand some out. Margaret doesn't mind when I get rid of it.

artandsoul said...

I found a lot of comfort in reading of Mother Theresa's feelings of loss and abandonment as she continued her work among the poorest of the poor.

"she disclosed feelings of doubt, loneliness, and abandonment. God seemed absent, heaven empty, and bitterest of all, her own suffering seemed to count for nothing, “. . . just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.”

I think that when deeply spiritual people - such as yourself - share those moments of despair it does not shake our belief but rather helps us with our own feelings of same.

I have no advice, just encouragement. I hope you continue to follow the path you're on. Prayers for you today.


Sue said...

No advice. Just many many prayers. May you find the peace that you seek somewhere, somehow in this difficult season.