a pressing editing deadline and some hardware issues kept me from visiting calvary to hear my brother preach this Sunday.
But a few weeks ago, I was able to avail myself of that opportunity. I filled out the paperwork required to loose the demolition duo on calvary's unsuspecting children's ministry, and found myself a seat next to some of my other siblings.
Before I say more, it should be noted that:
1) I have a really hard to sitting through almost any type of presentation for more than 20-30 minutes (yes, I know that I have no right to complain about lengthy sermons)
2) If you know David and I, you know that we have a few divergent views on things, and some generally different ways of thinking/functioning (for instance: he's responsible, organized, and focused. He holds a job and completes advanced degrees. I barely emerged from college with a dubiously acquired bachelors degree and a career path that gets changed more often than the oil in my minivan)
So there I was in the 10:30 service:
-Surrounded by six or seven hundred nice people, a solid majority of those adults being republicans who have jobs and do not live with their mothers
-And I was listening to a 40+ minute lecture.
-And I assume that I was hearing a theological/philosophical idea or two that would not naturally resonate with my way of thinking.
Interestingly enough, none of those factors were primary in my consciousness.
I was mostly noticing how passionate and gifted my brother was. (And I'm generally pretty critical of such things)
And while he's very good at preaching/teaching/writing, it's a relatively small part of what he contributes to the church he is a part of. He's really talented at everything he does, has some innovative ideas and he works very hard (probably a little more than he should). If he hadn't abused me as his paper-route lacky 23 years ago, I'd hire him to run my company, or to do just about anything.
I think he could be pretty successful in just about any church, or any field he chose, but It's really clear to me that he cares very deeply for the people in the community that he serves as a pastor.
Sometimes I think it's got to be hard to be on staff at the church he grew up in. I don't have a lot of opportunity to observe, but over the years it seems like sometimes he has to pay twice the dues, for half the respect.
My dad's been a pastor for about 40 years. And he's been at Calvary for about 23. I think David's been there in some capacity for pretty close to a decade. That's a long time.
And I remember that it's a hard job. People have expectations and desires that are often in tension. So there's almost always someone who is unhappy and unaware of the bigger picture. Sometimes that gets expressed in unkind ways.
Lately I've observed some of that happening in ways that are beyond the typical pastor's experience. It's been difficult to watch.
First and foremost, I hurt for them. I can see that it weighs heavily on them. I wish I could do something to prevent it.
But I'm also very proud of them (and that would extend to my mom and my sister-in-law who demonstrate the same kind of commitment and experience the same kind of hurt).
While I don't regret the years I spent as pastor, I am thankful to be traveling a different route in my own spiritual journey; a route that gives me some distance from those pressures. But I'm very proud of what my they are doing, proud of their motivations, and impressed by their stamina in doing it. It's very obvious that their efforts make the world a better place in some really tangible ways.
So, when I feel that they are under-appreciated, over-scrutinized, or simply lied about, I feel some hurt on their behalf. I feel some pride toward them. But then I invariably experience a sense of confusion.
Both my dad and my brother have demanding and high stress jobs.
They both have had no shortage of opportunities to accept positions offering, more money, less stress (and probably greater sense of prestige or importance).
While they've both had some rewarding opportunities, they have both endured some very hurtful experiences.
And they both know that as long as they are focused on helping hurting people, they will receive more wounds.
I think that everyone experiences some mix of healthy and unhealthy motivations.
And everyone makes mistakes.
I don't think my brother and father are perfect.
And I don't think they are trying to enjoy or perpetrate that illusion either.
But when people assume, imply, or infer that there is a deep or pervasive insincerity behind the actions of my father or my brother...
I can only wonder what their angle "angle" might be
What's in it for them??
If you are going to embrace your dark side and employ yourself toward sinister ends, why not avail yourself of one of the many venues that richly reward such behavior?
...or at least build one of those cool christian theme parks