I am no longer pastoring a flock. Or perhaps my flock is now a very different sort. But I feel much the same as I did when I first wrote this, and thought I’d share it again here.
I feel like I am in the eye of a hurricane. Have you ever experienced a hurricane? I did. I lived through hurricane Camille in August of 1969. I was very very young!
Really young, but I have very vivid memories of that storm. I remember the caravan of cars carrying cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles – all racing from the Mississippi Gulf Coast to my Mom’s uncle’s farm about an hour or so inland. I remember the angry swirling sky. I held my head up against the cool rear window glass of our green chevy car. (This was before carseats and seatbelt laws!) I noticed how the green of the sky matched the green paint of our car. I remember hearing my mom say all the hairs on her head were standing on edge. I immediately inspected the hair on my arm, and sure enough, it was as if each hair had become magnetized and was being pulled upward by that ugly green sky. I remember getting to the farm house and no one having a key. Adults raced around and around the house seeking a way in. Ultimately they had to kick in the door to get us all to safety. All of us young’ns were placed in a side bedroom, where all of the mattresses had been pulled off the beds and stacked up like building blocks to protect us. The sound of the wind truly was as loud as a passing train, it howled and howled. I, being from the very beginning the me that I am, crawled out from behind the mattresses to spy on the adults, and to see what that angry storm was doing. I remember seeing several tornados out the living room windows, black and grey swirls at war with that green sky. I saw the men taking turns holding the door shut all throughout the storm, because after breaking through the front door, they had been unable to get it to latch shut again. I remember the hushed conversations, the soft humming of hymns, and the worried faces of all of my people. I remember at one point, everything went silent, and the men all got to sit down and rest. All of the moms with babies, and the cousins came out from hiding amidst the mattresses. We were in the eye of the storm, I was told. I thought that meant it was over. Unfortunately, I would soon find myself tucked back into a corner, behind the barrier of bedding, as the eye wall hit and we waited for the second wave of the storm to pass. I was not quite four years old, but I remember those things as vividly as if they were yesterday.
I guess the reason this memory has come flooding back today, is how similar I feel today. I am a pastor. I am called to guide and feed, teach and love my precious flock. But I feel rather like someone caught in a storm, wanting to hold on tightly to all that is dear, not sure which way to go to find safety. I am a Gen Xer, I don’t like titles. I don’t like choosing sides, or claiming to be the expert. I don’t offer my personal opinions on political tides or storms. I haven’t ever though it my place to tell people what I think about politics or our government’s decisions. As one who teaches economics, and pastors a church, I never thought my personal opinions on such matters to be that relevant or necessary. But today, as I sit and pray and read in preparation of…[sharing my thoughts with you, I feel stuck in the eye of the storm. I know I must speak about the world we live in, and acknowledge the destruction of community and grace because of the deep-seeded problems associated with racism. It is time to search within, acknowledge our biases and prejudices. It is time to listen to peoples’ stories. It’s time to walk alongside those who are seeking justice. It’s time to change the systems and structures that lead to inhuman treatment.] To me this is like walking into the storm, naked and vulnerable. [It must begin with me. It must be now.]
In his book, In the Name of Jesus, Henri Nouwen shares his thoughts on the Christian leader of the future. He notes that he is deeply convinced that they are, “called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. That is the way Jesus came to reveal God’s love. The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God’s Word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.”