Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The 3 Rs

In Sunday worship, or at the start of a church event, when you hear prayer concerns offered, you heard the tip of the iceberg that comprises a pastor’s life. The weight of all the information and concerns that I hear on a weekly basis concerning not just church members, but also community members and family members (yours and my own) is like steady snowfall on a roof. Each flake, each layer, doesn’t seem like much by itself. But over time, they accumulate and produce a weight that is capable of crushing even the strongest joists.

In a perfect world, a perfect pastor would be able to pass all those concerns directly to God and never bear the weight of anxiety, never feel the pressure of answers’ absence, never hold onto the helplessness of not being able to “fix” all of our problems. Those two perfections have completely passed me by. I am who I am, where I am, doing and being what I know and can.

In a world that is far more comfortable with and capable of measuring “do” than “be” my role is often to practice and mirror the lesser and the less precise. That’s where “The Refreshment of the 3 Rs” comes in. Beyond my own practice of prayer and worship (not on Sunday morning), there are three other things I do in order to survive. To relieve the stress, pressure, and depression of my inability to let go of our collective angst and my immersion in the personal lives of all the people who trust me with their pain—I do these three things: Read, Write, and Run.

I don’t just read theology or church books. I read novels and comedy; things that let me escape for a while to subconsciously process my own thoughts and feelings. I write stories and poetry/prayers, all of which not only give me a chance to see what’s lurking deep in my head and heart, but also help me let go of that swirling grief and anxiety. Hence, this very piece is a part of that catharsis.

I run because it gives me a built-in time frame for organizing thoughts, words, and conversations. When I come to a steep hill, I forget the additional incline-induced strain on my overweight 50 year old body by forming and reforming the words of my next sermon, prayer, or poem as I trudge upward. So, when you see or hear of me plodding along the roads or trails of Lincoln County, know that there’s more than meets the eye going on out there. It’s life, it’s hope, it’s healing. Now you know.

The Baseball Booster Club asked to “borrow my voice” for their “Senior Day” pre-game festivities and announcing of the season’s final home game. I count it an honor and a privilege to take part in this. There’s a different kind of healing that happens here, as I think back on my “Glory Days” such as they were, and reflect forward on the hopes and dreams of our community’s future leaders. I heard a preacher recently say, “The church exists at the intersection of memory and hope.” If that’s the case, and I believe it is, then events like “Senior Day” and graduations are as much church as anything we do on a Sunday morning.

Despite my dismal record last season (3-7), I have been “re-hired” as the pre-game motivational speaker for the LCHS football team this year. I think you’d have to have been part of an adolescent team of some sort to understand how this kind of privilege impacts your life. Whether or not we pray, read scripture, or mention God at all, I believe what I do on Friday afternoons in the locker room is an integral part of “being church.” I hope to see you somewhere out there, in all the different places where we all have opportunities to “be” church.

© 2010 Todd Jenkins