Keeping Perspective…

I have a horrid anxiety disorder.  It’s awful, really.  I have had it since I was young and frankly, it’s one of those things about me that I wish I could get rid of for good.  It makes me more sensitive to things at times.  Other times it makes me overreact when I should really reel it in.  But, all in all, the worst part about my disorder is it makes me into my own idol.  It makes me into my own god.  It makes me doubt the goodness of God Almighty and basks in the fear and the control I can make myself.  It’s a horrid cycle, too, because the more I worry, the more I grasp for control, the more I grasp for control that is out of reach, the more I worry.  It affects me in all aspects of my life- my marriage, my work, my friends, and my faith.  It’s embarrassing, it’s bothersome, and it affects me in the most personal and profound ways.

But even in this my baptism hasn’t dried up.  Though my panic may make me feel as if God has abandoned me, it isn’t true.  My relationship with God has nothing to do with my feelings.  It has nothing to do with if I am afraid of my own shadow or if I think I have it all under control.  God still has me in His hands, forgiven and beloved that has nothing to do with my own merit or worthiness.  That’s the great thing about God’s love.  It’s not dependent on my “accepting it”.  It’s not about whether or not I have done anything.  It’s objective.  Focused on God, not on my feeble sinful self, I can be reassured that although I am a sinner, and actively sinning against God when I have an anxiety attack, I am forgiven, not because of who I am, but because of Who Christ is, and what He did for me on the cross at Calvary.

It’s not the “cure” for my anxiety disorder in that I will be rid of it, but it’s THE cure, the eternal cure.  The cure that Christ won for me on the cross, the cure that knows that though I carry this burden now, I am now and will be complete without this disorder.  Odd to think about but makes perfect sense in view of eternity.

Aw, Heck, no!

The best thing you can do if you want to see what someone can accomplish, is to make them angry.  The joke is, if you ever hear a country girl say, “Aw, he!!, no!”, you’re in big trouble.  Well, someone pulled out the stop for me.  Actually, its been brewing for a while, it’s just this someone put it in words, and well, this rant is for them.

In the LCMS, CRM status is a black mark on a pastor’s career.  Kiss that career goodbye, because if you congregation decides that they can’t afford you, you’re not a good fit for them, if you decided to be Confessional instead of church-growth, or if they decide to harass you and your family until they leave, and you are forced out, it’s all your fault, your not a good pastor, and your done.  That’s how it’s seen with many, too many, pastors who are good and faithful servants of God’s Word.

My husband was forced out of a call.  He was on CRM.  Now he’s part time.  Did he make mistakes?  Sure, everyone does.  Everyone is a sinner.  Everyone has a point where they don’t handle a situation well.  Everyone has a place where they are vulnerable to make a mess.  But should that be a career ender?  Let’s put this into perspective.  A person who is struggling in a job can actively look for another job.  They can put their resume out there.  They can interview and hope to get a better match for them in the same career in the secular world.  Especially in a world where company loyalty is at an all time low and people are always out looking for the better fit instead of working through the issue presented, the reason for looking for a new job might be the location, the co-workers, the boss, the work assigned, the clients or customers doing business with the company, and the like.  Who, in the secular world, could cast the first stone and state that they have never gotten so frustrated with their job that they have actively hunted for or gotten a new job when they felt they couldn’t take anymore?  Now, what is it that a pastor can do?  Give their file to a DP, who the pastor hopes will give the information to the calling congregations in each district, and pray for a new location.  This process can take months or even years at times.  That doesn’t work if a congregation is running out of money and telling the pastor to seek employment elsewhere.  That doesn’t work for the pastor who has a minority of his congregation threatening to make life unbearable until he finds a new call.  That doesn’t help the pastor who is all but fired from his call for not scratching itching ears.  So what is a pastor to do?  For his health, for his family, for his own congregation sometimes, he will resign.

So then what?  Because he did the best he could with the sinful situation at hand we will judge him, play Monday morning quarterback, and bar him from serving any congregation ever because he did what he thought best?  We aren’t talking about gross outward sins such as adultery, slothfulness, or other Biblical reasons for a pastor to be removed from his call.  We are talking about sinful situations where the pastor did what was best in a lessor of two evils choice.  We shouldn’t be telling them that their careers are over, lives are shattered.  We should do what we can to both heal and uplift these pastors and put them back out to serve Christ Jesus and the Church He has entrusted his under-shepherds with bringing Word and Sacrament.  It’s time to realize that mercy, forgiveness, and understanding should abound where judgement and condemnation once stood.  Most (I will not say all) on CRM don’t deserve to be there permanently.  They deserve a “second chance” as it were to get back into the system of the clergy roster of the LCMS.

On a side note, help them while they are still in “limbo”.  Buy a t-shirt.  Raise awareness.  Call your DP and admonish him to seek out the CRM pastors in his district and find them calls.  See if you can find out the CRM pastors in your district and call them up and ask them how you can help.

Perspective…

My husband has often lamented that he is no longer a full time pastor.  He hates the fact that he has a clock in, clock out, forty hours a week job at Wal-Mart.  This isn’t to say that Wal-Mart is a horrid place to work, more that he spent so many years prepping to be a pastor, and though he has all the training, all the experience, all the readiness to serve full time, God placed him in a congregation that couldn’t pay him enough to live on and he had to maintain his second job.  But Wal-Mart isn’t where his heart is.  His heart is with the people of his church.  He wants to be there for their hurts, their challenges, their victories, and their lives.  It’s hard for him to wake up and not put a clerical on, but what he calls the “Wal-Martian” suit and head off to a place that holds so much of his time, much more than he would ever prefer.  If he gets a phone call that someone is sick, he has to wait until he has time to go there instead of rushing to be at the side of the infirm.  How frustrating!

Then, I think, God doesn’t make mistakes.  God doesn’t just accidentally “stick” someone in a part time call.  God doesn’t just put someone in a church because there wasn’t another place to put them.  God has a plan, an intricate design, a place for everyone.  It’s hard to think that while my husband was going through his hardships in Kansas that God was prepping him for where he is at now, but He was. The time my husband spent in Minnesota with his congregations there prepared him for what he is doing now.  He may not feel prepared and he may feel like his time is wasted at Wal-Mart, but that’s not how God sees it.  God sees His own beloved child working to better the lives of the neighbors around my husband in at least two vocations he calls jobs.  God provides when we need to do what seems impossible.

There isn’t a more loving congregation out there than the one my husband serves now.  Understanding, patient, loving, they have never caused any rumblings of trouble because my husband can’t be there full time.  They accept him for who he is and where he is and never make any complaints that he isn’t around more.  Much the opposite, they respect it and work around it so that all can be done to God’s glory.  It may be a frustrating situation for all, but Christian love abounds as there is no blame, no resentment, only  understanding and patience on all sides.  Perhaps it could be that God gave my husband a place to heal after what he endured in Kansas?  I’d like to think so.  Even the most frustrating situations can be gifts from God even if we don’t always see it.

This isn’t to say that we don’t work to better ourselves and our situation because it is important to have that drive.  However, it’s good to know that we will be provided for by a loving God who sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins so that we could be in heaven with Him.  He provides eternally and temporally all that we need to support this body and life.  In that perspective, my husband isn’t in some “holding pattern” until he gets back into the full time ministry, he is right where God wants him to be.  That assurance, through faith, makes it so that my husband not only can perform at both jobs, frankly, he rocks it!