I’m new into the business of being ordained and wearing a dog collar. It’s an incredible privilege as I’m suddenly a kind of public figure and get to live and work in the same place. The work is great, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. What’s amazing is how much help people give me. There are so many people who show they care about my work and me.
That’s a fairly new phenomenon for me. Not that people weren’t helpful at work before, I think it’s just different now. In the past I’ve kept my distance and seen work as a separate part of my life to Home. Here though I’m doing my job as a mum, wife and local resident. I’m learning to say thank you on a daily basis. While I’m doing a good job I’m receiving so much from those around me, it’s hard to keep track. I want to say a collective thank you; Thanks for clearing the graveyard, cutting the grass, thanks for the chicken run, thanks for the cakes, the play date, thanks for waiting for me, putting on the heating, doing a service sheet, knitting poppies, sorting finance, filling up my car! The list goes on!
I feel quite uncomfortable with this and I think it’s because it’s not a reality I’m familiar with. It’s also not reciprocal – I can’t repay or give the same gift back. I can be the church leader but I don’t expect any special treatment because of my job.
I feel quite liberated but also that old imposter syndrome crops up – when is everyone going to realise someone has made a terrible mistake and I’m going to be ‘defrocked’ or de-collared’. All these lovely helpful people will realise they’ve backed the wrong person.
To be fair it’s something I’ve always worried about in most jobs but my heart is now firmly tattooed on my sleeve and it’s not going anywhere. I’m me, I’m a mum and a resident, neighbour, wife and I’m the Christian here, the pioneer curate.
Everytime we have to face up to our own mortality I think it’s easy to hide these vulnerable bits of our makeup and shrink our expectations to the situation we are in. This week I’ve supported my training incumbent with 4 funerals, and it’s been tempting. But it’s not a wise strategy. Numbing ourselves from pain just causes more pain. Philip Yancey writing on this points out that pain is there for a reason to prevent us from continuing destructive behaviour. He describes how people with leprosy lose sensation on their limbs and this causes as much damage as the condition itself as people can end up walking on sharp objects and not realising.
Avoiding feeling your way around is also one way to block yourself having fun! Grief can mess with your head but unless we deal with it and let go we can’t move forward as it blocks our exit.
Collectively as a church we get stuck too. Yes as a church we have a lot to say sorry for, a lot has been lost and a lot of people have been hurt by our theology at different times. I think a better starting point though is what do we want more of? Where is our joy and celebration? What are we thankful for? If god’s kingdom plans were fulfilled here what would that look like? If we are looking for this then we need to be prepared to say thank you, as we will probably receive much more than we can ever expect!
Matthew 6 v33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.