It has been years since I have really felt out of control. That sounds so strange as I look at my life and see it actually written on the page. For years I have struggled against the passions which have led me to sometimes making wrong decisions. I have viewed life from most sides and concluded that what I really needed was that solidarity in my life, that brought the most peace. I have concluded that the more I seek my own solace in life, the more out of control life became.
How can there be a lack of control when the very essence of life in ministry holds that supposed calm that is expected by those under our care? Well, it is a long hard journey to that place where the skin remains supple, while able to withstand the worst that life in the human journey can offer. I have felt many times in ministry the tug of depression on the very pit of my heart. I have known the awfulness of looking into the abyss and not knowing what the future will hold for me and my dear wife, as the challenges of expectation, personal disappoint or even attack became more than real. Why that happens is simple. I, like those in this calling known as Pastoral Ministry, (and many others too... I know) have to face daily the problems, hurts, angers, misconceptions, questions and rage of a human life that can explode, cry, collapse in illness or death, become lost in either the complexity of the system or in the identity of their human existence, at any given time, as they face their own realities of life.
The question often arrises for me... what do I do next. The context of the problem first has to be separated from my personal views. I evaluate the reasons for what is taking place, where the basic needs before me are best served and then ask myself if I am being totally objective about what I am seeing and finding. There is a difference always. Objectivity creates for me a different view of what is not only happening, but what can or should happen. Too many times in my life I have stood on the edge of life’s situations and only felt the subjective stress, which I could easily have turned into that angry person that once lived in me and controlled almost every decision I made, until I was over my teenage years... even since then I have struggled lots of times to not lapse back to the old life.
Am I staring back into the abyss again? Do I not acknowledging daily that I need to release myself again to my Faith and not to my emotions. Certainly I am... I am facing the demons that dwell in the innermost part of the human life... a desire to fight back, to get even, to stop the constant charge of those who would challenge me, undermine my control and cloud the true issues of what need to be done, by their negative take on most things. I enjoy ministry until those around me are constantly on the prowl for something to complain about, something to dismantle or even discard for new and more liberal views of life, beyond where my faith lies.
The feelings I am examining today in my life are those same feelings that every person who walks among the hurting, searching and lost of humanity feels. It is the inability of a single person to meet all the needs. It is the silent cry, which held in defines the professional level of the work being done, while it tears at the very fabric of who we are, both socially and personally. There is little human salve for the open wounds, too few venues for the outlet needed for those things which bring fragility to the person finding themselves reeling amidst the endless expectations and battles daily faced... unless there is a person to which you can turn. So there is the hope. The knowledge that there is someone who not only hears, but understands. I am fortunate that I have not only a human helpmate that cares, hears and prays for me, but a Wonderful God who knows my sorrows and even though he knows I walk alone in some respects, I know I am never alone... He is always there, sometimes carrying me.
So why do those feelings come into my life of from time to time? Is it the long hours, the very challenging work I have undertaken, the size of debt that certainly brings its challenges or is it my lack of surrender. Well, as I view my life and my sense of work ethic, I know that I can take on too much, put too much of my personal effort into the concerns that should not be under my purview, but that comes with the job. I know that I take too seriously the idea that I am sent of God and I must work as if there is no tomorrow. I feel the pain of those under my care and I carry it and I should let God carry it for them.. He already has. But I can not leave behind the responsibility to help those I can. I have to learn once again not to carry it home with me and deal with the calls as they come, the disappointments as they arise, the complaints and misunderstanding as I face them, and not take it personally. That is the key... not taking it personally, because when I do I go out of control.
So back to the basics I go. Back to the time away from the fray, back to the time when I took rest and captured the reality of what was happening around me. It is time to give my life back to Him who gave me life in the beginning and then a new life in service for Him. I have seen the edge more than once in my life, I have been challenged on many sides and these days are challenging to say the least. But, I am not lost.. Near the edge of my control level yes, but I have the sense of self identity that I am nothing, but for God. I can challenge the abyss and not lose hope or focus. That is what living near the edge is all about. Staring into that which may seem beyond all skill and ability, can be healing when we surrender, not to fate, but to true strength that comes in our weakness when we ask Him for it. After all, I have been there and come back, I have tasted and it was good, I have seen the face of the abyss and now I have no fear.
I pray for those who stare out into the loss of control in their lives. It is not a pleasant place and can be brought on by so many triggers in life. Near the edge is not over the edge. We have an opportunity to focus on what brings peace not turmoil. Loss of control is a terrible place to be and peace is the beauty of the quiet we feel when we let go of those things in life that love to trigger a response and give them to God. Don’t regret the walk, living near the edge can be healing depending on how you define the view from there.