Yesterday was the 8th Anniversary of my Ordination (April 10, 2011) and every year on my Ordination Anniversary I pause to contemplate my ministry. I realized that in 8 years I’ve grown and changed. For instance, when I look back at old sermons I’m struck by how many theologians and authors I would cite. In my previous congregation, I received compliments for doing so because it meant that I was well-read. But in actuality, I cited so many others because I wasn’t quite confident enough to state my own beliefs only to deal with critiques afterwards. It’s easier to graciously field those comments when they aren’t only your own thoughts and feelings in a sermon. It was a defense mechanism that I don’t feel the need to have anymore.
Or I would write original liturgy most Sundays, no matter how long it would take. Now I recognize that there are excellent resources for liturgy written by people who have a passion for doing so, and thus I freely adapt (and make sure to give credit in the bulletin!) Or every special service would have to be new every year. Then I realized that the Good Friday Stations of the Cross Service I originally worked on as a group project in Seminary (for instance) was the service that I felt best offering to the congregation on Good Friday. So now, it’s my go-to service I use year in and year out. And that’s okay. Or there were those times that I ended up throwing away rotten milk in the refrigerator and being the only person who seemed to clean it out. And I did this for years, not saying anything because I figured I’m the Pastor and in the building a lot and just need to take one for the team. But then I almost got sick one time and realized that people may not even know this was an issue, so I told Church Council about it and we stayed on top of it together after that. Or I would just show up to visit people and not call ahead. And yikes, I learned that New Englanders do not appreciate this one bit and it wounded my Midwestern pride to the core. Now I call ahead (unless someone is in the hospital!), lesson learned. Or I would skip days off for weeks at a time and sneak into the office to work on Fridays. Until I got some tough love from my family and friends that my over-achieving ways were getting me dangerously close to burn-out.
I could go on and on. The point is that once you’ve been doing something for 8 years you start to notice patterns–good and bad. You realize that there may be changes you need to make to be a relatively healthy and happy human being. And yes, this is me thinking this week about my own ministry. But I think this applies to other professions or other relationships we have in our lives. It helps to pause and think about ways we’ve changed and grown over time. This week my big realization was that for a long time I wanted to be the best (and if I’m honest, there’s still that voice inside of me.) But for the most part, I’m content these days to just be good. Not needing to be the best pastor/daughter/sister/friend/etc., but a good pastor/daughter/sister/friend/etc. And that is a liberating realization! Sometimes we just need to remember that we are enough.
(This Week’s Thoughts 4.11.19)