"For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)
"Hope is willing to leave unanswered questions unanswered and unknown futures unknown. Hope makes you see God's guiding hand not only in the gentle and pleasant moments but also in the shadows of disappointment and darkness (Henri J.M. Nouwen)
There are many aspects of serving as the pastor of a church that I appreciate very, very much -- the privilege of being invited into people's lives at moments of vulnerability, the blessings of being in community with other people seeking to love and serve Jesus, the awesome desserts at church potlucks -- to name a few. But there is one aspect of serving as a pastor that does not match my personality well at all. The job is never, ever finished.
You see, I am a linear-thinking, list-making, "concrete" kind of a guy. I like closure. Nothing gives me more pleasure than having a task before me, tackling it, finishing it, and then stepping back and looking at what I have accomplished and saying to myself, "Nice job! Check it off the list. What's next?" This summer I built a retaining wall behind my house. It was a huge job, but I felt an equally huge amount of satisfaction when it was finally done.
As a pastor, there is always more to do. The "job" is never done. There is always another sermon to write, another class to prepare to teach, another step to take when pursuing the mission of the church. Sometimes it feels like I'm always "on the way" and never "there." Come to think of it, this is how I feel about parenting as well. As my children grow and develop and move through their unique stages of development, we never arrive at some final destination. We're always on the move towards the next stage and it will be a long time (if such a moment ever comes) before I can step back, look at my children, and say, "Raise well-adjusted children? Check! What's next?"
Spiritually this is an important thing for me to know about myself. Because if I want to "arrive" at a destination -- spiritual maturity, deep wisdom, "perfection" (in the words of John Wesley), whatever -- and I never do, then frustration isn't far behind. And frustration leads to either anger or apathy--both of which lead to a kind of hopelessness and are destructive in their own way.
The invitation to me is to grow in my capacity to be comfortable with "incompleteness," to understand that the process of "becoming" the human being God calls me to be is never over. And so I pray that God will grant me the patience--for patience is what I need--to let all things unfold in their own time, in their own way. To be right where I am instead of always restlessly wanting to move on to some imagined "destination". To be patient with others in their incompleteness, too, so that they are free "to become" and my love will be unconditional. To trust that all the incompleteness in my life and this world will be, one day, fulfilled and brought to glorious completion by God.
Blessings on your week,
Prayer: Ever creating God, please give me patience with all that feels "unfinished" in my life so that I may experience wonder and joy at what you are doing, right here, right now. Amen.