It's all about patience and perseverance and hanging onto hope, I think.
And by "it", I mean life.
I've got nothing very shiny and new here,only a reminder to myself, I suppose, that while our culture seems to delight in things that are swift and shiny and not terribly demanding,life is anything but that. Life is messy,not simple, and the healthy responses to life often take time and patience and endurance and hope.
The past few months have been filled with lots and lots of pastoral care issues that are not going to resolve themselves with rapid and complete healing. They are the marathons of life, the long, slow runs that have hills and water stations set too far apart. They are the mountain climbing expeditions, replete with switchbacks and shaky footing and some rock slides.
In the past few months I've been called to work with some congregations that have slowly been fading because of their inability to cope with change in and around them, and now they're looking for help in the form of instant answers and quick fixes, of which there are few to none. It reminds me of folks who talk about instant weight loss to combat weight that took years to put on.
I'm in the midst of reading One Hundred Names for Lovee by Diane Ackerman, a writer whose work I've long admired. No stranger to the endurance road of relationship with a partner with chronic health conditions, Ackerman is a great guide for those who are called to accompany loved ones, parishoners, friends or neighbors on their marathon excursions. She writes that as she learned more about her spouse's diagnosis, she "grasped the implications well enough to half extinguish hope."
I'm also in the midst of reading Diana Butler Bass' new book, Christianity After Religion as I get ready for an upcoming meeting with the Book Group that Fills My Heart With Joy. I'm only a little way into this book, but like Ackerman, Bass writes with her usual straightforwardness of the realities of mainline Protestant congregations in the 21st century. Perhaps as religion "ebbs away" as Butler describes, we will be willing to run the long race in ways that make sense for the times in which we live.
The vibrant congregation I serve is forging some new pathways, fully recognizing that traditional responses really don't fit new situations. It's taking time, but we're working on patiently providing a variety of entry points for life and programming at the church so that mission and ministry can have some sprinty moments along with the marathon ones. More important, though, are the changes that are taking place so that we can discover new ways to humbly make a difference by truly living the gospel. In this I find the energy that fuels the marathon.
Image from here.