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Monday, April 18, 2016

Painfully Excellent

Today I received a graded paper that included the most interesting comment I have ever seen, "Painfully excellent paper..." 

I paused...

It is here that I will admit that I have struggled with this class.  I don't tend to struggle a whole lot in the academic world.  I might push back... and debate... and say things just to get a reaction (sometimes).  But I'm a good student.  In all of my post-grad work, there has only been one course that caused me serious, legitimate distress.  I mean, by the time I reach the final week of any term, I am holding my eyes open with toothpicks and begging for the last few words to write themselves before I collapse in a pile of 2:00am exhaustion, but that's not actually distress.  I secretly love that part.  Mostly, school is awesome.

But I found myself bordering on, "Oh my goodness, I cannot have a second class that brings me to tears every night," with this one...  Preaching and Worship... just about enough to make me question my call and whether or not I really need to finish the last five classes...

It took me awhile to figure out exactly what the problem was, and this is it: this class underscores what I do not have...

Even though I love what I do... and even though I don't really want to live in suburbia and pastor a church that offers every program under the sun and nearly runs itself... and even though I'm sort of anti-establishment and I can't sing in a choir to save my life... There are moments when I do feel this enormous void well up.  Anyone enrolled in an M.Div. ought to be able to record a sermon they're preaching, relatively easily, right?  Anyone enrolled in an M.Div. ought to be licensed and pretty close to ordination, right?  Anyone enrolled in an M.Div. ought to be able to find someone to serve as their director for supervised ministry, right? 

Crap!  Nothing I do is supervised!  Do you want to know the single most exciting thing, for me, about the recent trailer that was released for "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story?"  It was this line, "This is a rebellion, isn't it?  I rebel..." Except, it's not even that I really rebel... or at least, not that much.  It's more like I see things that other people don't see, and then I want to do something about them even when other people don't care.  I didn't mean to break the mold.  It just... broke...

I really like to do things that are excellent. 

Sometimes I would like to stop doing things that are painfully excellent.

Sometimes I would just like to stop living a painful narrative, altogether, but the alternative isn't always what you might think, so I keep living it, because at least it's real.    

I read this, from Common Prayer, today:

"Even in the darkness, we will trust: that our lives are still in your hands."

And you know what?  It helped.

Colossians 4:2-6, "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (NIV).

At least we've already established that I have the salty part down...

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