Thursday, June 9, 2011

Stand By Me...

Confession in advance, this is part rant, but mostly thanksgiving.

See, there's something that's been bothering me for over 9 months and I am ready to put it to bed. I was told by someone in the church I serve that my flock thought I was unapproachable, aloof, and uncaring. Now, I'm a pretty tough guy, but I'll admit that really bothered me. (Oh boo hoo, Jamie. Grow up.) Folks have been telling me for years that, as pastors go, I'm very approachable, and I guess that's why this got to me. I never let on that it bothered me, but it did, and I know that if you're going to be in the field that I have given my life to you have... have... have to have tough skin, so I just kept on trucking. (Cue the drill sergeant telling me, "Well why don't we just mosey on over to namby pamby land and get you some self confidence! You jack wagon!") Having heard that folks saw me that way left me struggling with the "Am I really making a difference?" question, and really made me question everything I had been doing for the past 11 years.

So the rant is... Before you say something critical to someone else, think about how it's going to affect that person. Is it something that really needs to be said? Is it going to make things better or worse? If you were the other, would you want someone to say that to you? Words are cheap, but not always helpful. Now I realize that I have a nasty tendency to put too much weight on others' opinions and I'm not going to do that anymore. The rant is now over...on to the thanksgiving.

Monday night saw the culmination of an eleven year journey for me. I have to say, I'm actually kind of surprised I stuck with it. Steph says I'm classic ADD, and there have been times in my life when Ron White's "That boy's gotta whole lot of quit in him" might have been spoken about me. It's not always been easy, but then, nothing worth giving yourself to is. There were long days and short nights while I was working on my bachelors's degree and Master's of Divinity degree... peer group meetings... theological statements to write and rewrite... interviews... questions to struggle with... psych evaluations... and the list goes on and on. Monday night, that part of my journey came to an end. I was ordained as an elder in full connection in the United Methodist Church...finally.

I would love to thank each person who has helped me on this journey individually, but I'm afraid I would leave someone out. There have been folks who have encouraged me along the way, who have sent me notes or emails telling me that they knew I had been called by God and had what it took to be a pastor in the UMC. There have been folks who stood by me when I became frustrated and questioned whether or not I should continue. ...and there have been folks who challenged me (cough..cough..Dave :D ), which only made me look deeper into who I was and what I believed, making me a much better pastor.

Monday night was the ordination service, and it really is a beautiful service. Bishop Wills pulled a chair down to the front of the stage in front of the ordinands, and though he was preaching in front of hundreds, seemed to have written his message just for us. Then, as we were brought on stage for our ordination, friends and family were asked to stand as a sign of support and love. Over the years I have stood up for several while they were ordained...this year it was my turn.

After the service, Steph came up to me and the first thing she said was, "Were you able to turn around and see all of the people standing up for you? It had to be nearly 3/4 of the people in the room." That was when I realized that I am loved...not unapproachable, aloof, and uncaring.

This is just me, but I think we are way too quick to criticize, and not nearly quick enough to stand up for, or with, someone. It takes guts, sometimes, to stand up for someone else.

So, to all of the people who stood for me Monday night, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. To the people who have stood by me during this process, thank you. To the people who have been critical along the way, thank you also, because you have caused me to look deeper within myself and I am a stronger person and better pastor for it.

Now, as a sign of that thanks, I'm going to vow to do everything I can to stand with you as we stand for the other. After all, that is what we are called to do.

Here's a link to a video that Bishop Wills shared during Conference this year:

(You may have to copy and paste the link into your browser)


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