Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pastor...Living....Stone...I presume?


"We are divided between exploitation and nurture…a division not only between persons but also within persons…The standard of the exploiter is efficiency; the standard of the nurturer is care. The exploiter’s goal is money, profit; the nurturer’s is health – his land’s health, his own, his family’s, his community’s, his country’s. Whereas the exploiter asks of a piece of land only how much and how quickly it can be made to produce, the nurturer asks a question that is much more complex and difficult: What is its carrying capacity? That is: How much can be taken from it without diminishing it? The world we live in operates out of a spirit of exploitation of people, places and things. But you and I are called to live by a different spirit, one that seeks to blow a nurturing breath in us and through us. It's a narrow way filled with complex and difficult questions. It is not efficient." -Wendell Berry's The Unsettling of America

I think this quote pokes at something that is more and more clear the deeper into the pastoring rabbit hole I pass. It's the sometimes unseen building of a diminishing process that can move from life producing activity---to life draining activity. So much of the community life circles around us, be it, the labor/employment, relationships, families or church can mutate into "systems" that start exploiting the souls of those involved. They can start "diminishing" those that become enmeshed within something that has the potential to swallow you or consume you in ways that do not produce spiritual, mental or physical health. Jesus presented a kingdom reality that was mysteriously both all consuming and yet, didn't consume the one who it was consuming. Kind of like the burning bush that Moses was mesmerized by and heard the voice of God within. Jesus put it this way:

Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
-Matthew 11:28-30

That is the spirit of gentleness that I long to walk out as a man, a husband, a father and a pastor. The ability to embrace the burden or yoke that doesn't kill you but presses you towards greater life without losing your soul in the process. It's a tricky path.

Many pastors slowly become petrified through the pastoring process. The "ministry" can become a hardening agent that week by week calcifies a protective shell over the heart and soon becomes more than a refuge of safety but instead, a hiding place. We can become unaccessible, talk less and less, close up instead of open up, knee jerk instead of listen, get angry, which is just a mask of greater and greater sadness. It's a slow burning fire that soon moves from giving light and warming frozen souls to consuming one's sense of self and burning you up until you are a smoldering wick...but it doesn't have to be that way.

That isn't the way of Christ...though it might be the gate to the real kingdom, through which one must enter to be truly free from the very barnacles of religion and man pleasing life that suffocate the souls longing to breath kingdom air.

We can become, as the Apostles said: "Living Stones". A term that is quite mysterious if you take it apart.
I find hope within it. I see the promise that one can be both stone...and living at the same time.
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