Grieving and Leading

I have blogged recently about how we experience community in the church. We are brothers and sisters, we are family members, we are members of one body and all the parts work together. Because of our relationships in Christ, what forms is a kind of intimacy with each other. This closeness grows as we learn together, worship together and serve together--but especially when we risk together. The risks we take can be internal risks of trust and grace--can I share authentically with this person and still be accepted? Other risks are external risks of experimentation and leadership--can we walk through this new door together and come out the other side still friends, still trusting God together?
The real joy of ministry is never the predictable times of meetings, worship services or planning sessions, but it is always those times of risk, both internally and externally where we depend on God together and we actually are transformed. That change is miraculous because it's not something we expected or planned on, or anything we could have actually done on our own--it took God and the other in our lives.

So what happens when those relationships of trust and grace and intimacy, of history and shared memories suddenly end through death? 

As a pastor there are many ways to deal with the loss. One is compartmentalizing. That's when we put those relationships in clean lines and boxes in a way that distance us from real grief. That wasn't a friend, that was a congregant. Being a pastor means when I lead a memorial service of remembrance, I don't attend as one who grieves. Being in charge means I use a different side of the brain--more thinking, less feeling.

Another way is theological. They're in a better place. God is good all the time.

Yet another way is logically. We're all going to die someday. This just happened to be sooner than we all expected.

I'm not any good at any of these responses. I'm first and foremost a person, not a pastor. And what my mind does as a pastor sometimes robs me from what I need to experience, what I want to experience as a person.


In the past 5 years I've lost three friends who were all involved in those great formative years of ministry with students. We learned together what it meant to have joy in serving--real joy because we struggled, prayed, failed, laughed and cried, and we made a difference together.

I miss Maynard, Geoff and Rawley. I thank God for the relationships. I'm thankful for lessons learned, for real transformation in my life and theirs, and for a bit of the Kingdom of God we experienced together.

Comments

  1. Thanks Mike. Good food for thought.

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  2. Right on, Mike, "I thank God for the relationship." The Gospel in grief. Jesus wept. Mike wept. This is the real reality we long for in our spiritual leaders. Incarnation = one of us, not somewhere apart. Thanks, Brother, for leading us to His place.

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  3. I miss them, too. I can't see a photo of Maynard without getting teary. I don't know if I will ever be able to.

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  4. Saint John of the cross did not believe that Jesus was a ransom for sins, but instead that God, recognizing the inability of his children to span void between the human and the transcendent, humbled himself to reconcile his children. To live a life of need, service, suffering, grief and sacrifice so that we, in our own moments of frail humanity, commune with god. Because we are, all of us, people first.

    God bless you and keep you... and give you his peace.

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