So this past weekend I got to be on the inside of what goes into a service at my new church. (I really need to stop calling it that…it’s been six months…it’s not my new church…it’s my church.) Anyway, so I had been invited to share on creativity and pain with two other members of The Orchard tribe and we were sitting in our pastor’s office before the first service started. We were hashing out who was going to say what and when and we were talking about how our pain had decreased our judgment and increased our compassion.
I told them how I used to judge people who got divorced. I told them how I used to size somebody up before getting together with them so I could decide how much grace I would show them. (I don’t think I did this consciously; I think I did this because I hadn’t experienced the grace of God to the depths that I have now, so I only had so much of my own to hand out to others.) And I told them how someone recently told me that her husband used to refer to me as a Pharisee when I was on staff.
Back then, I would have taken that as the highest of compliments. You better believe I’m a Pharisee and you better follow the rules I’m laying out as I try to get all of you errant supposed grown-ups to lead your small groups well so people feel connected, darnit! Yes, I was a peach to work with.
So, let me say, to every single volunteer who served with me or who I led during my time at Blackberry Creek Community Church and then Christ Community Church – Blackberry Campus, I am so very sorry. I am so sorry that I was mean. I am so sorry that I was short-sighted. I am so sorry that I put my rules over knowing you as a person. I am so sorry that alot of times you were just a name on a post-it that I had to cross off so I could move on to the next ministry conversation after church on Sundays. I am so sorry when I used you as a pawn to get all the ministry done that I so desperately wanted to get done “for Jesus”. I was a leader living in an introvert’s body and my social skills were lacking (still are at times, I’m afraid). And my personal life was a mess but I was both trying to act like it wasn’t and keep it all together at the same time; but those are no excuses. I wish I could say my heart was always in the right place. It was a lot of the times but some of the time I just wanted to get my version of God’s Kingdom built the way I wanted it to be built and I hurt so many people with my rough edges and short words and endless emails telling you what to do. I am so sorry. I was a Pharisee.
But I’d like to believe that I’m not that way anymore. To which my pastor replied, “Thank God!” (In fact, come to think of it, if I were still that way, odds are I wouldn’t have been invited into that conversation.)
Because now I see what I didn’t see back then. That somehow every single thing that God wants to get done will get done. That I can trust that the Spirit is big enough for all of this. That people are more important than programs. That your heart matters. That your pain is something I can learn from. That the sentence “so, tell me your story” is about the kindest thing anyone can say to another human being, especially if they’re not checking their watch. That I came this close to my entire life tanking but Jesus stepped in and said, “I don’t think so,” and reached down and turned everything around, and then reminded me that it didn’t matter really if I messed everything up because he wasn’t going anywhere and he was going to get me through it and he would never stop loving me. And oh yeah, now that I had experienced all that, it might be a good idea to reach out to others who are hurting and show them the compassion that he had just shown me.
I’m getting there. But to prove that it’s a process, that I am in fact still recovering from my pharisaical ways: so we were sitting in my pastor’s office and I hear music, and I look down at the watch on the hand of the gal sitting on the couch with me and I think I see that it’s 5. The service starts at 5. My heart begins to race. I’m trying to stay engaged and listen and keep eye contact but in my head I’m screaming, “The service has started! WE NEED TO GO!” Just then, his assistant peeks her head in and says, casually, as if she’s done this a thousand times (because she probably has), “Service started.” My pastor stands up which brings me unending relief, until he reaches in his pocket, pulls out his keys and tosses them to her, saying, “My shirt’s in my car…can you go get it for me?” Church had started AND HE WASN’T EVEN DRESSED FOR CHURCH YET! I’m dying, but we all stand to pray and we make it into the auditorium just in the nick of time. And by just in the nick of time I mean with about twenty minutes to spare. Okay, so I’m not a fully-recovered Pharisee. But I’m getting there. I’ll get there.