The Sum of All My Fears

These are some things I fear by one, being who I am; two, expressing my investigations in this blog; three, pastoring the way I do. They are:

  1. angering my superiors;
  2. upsetting people in my community who can do damage;
  3. being excommunicated;
  4. losing my friends;
  5. my family being hurt because of me;
  6. our church closing down;
  7. being unemployed;
  8. being attacked and ridiculed;
  9. offending more people than I help;
  10. being wrong (truly a heretic).

The thing is, I have experienced all of these things more than once, and am still experiencing some of them now. Some of them are momentary, some are continual. I not only know the pain of them, but I also know the rewards. I am frequently invited to just keep things to myself… my questions, my doubts, my thoughts, etc.. That is not the problem. The problem for me is that my outer life is necessitated by my inner life. The fruit comes from the root. To keep these things to myself would mean a kind of suicide I’m not willing to commit. It’s like being invited to keep myself to myself. So, in the end, the perpetual struggle is to press on in spite of my fear.

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  • Tiggy

    It seems like a useful thing you’ve just done – to list your fears. I think I’m going to try doing that. A lot of it makes it seem that you fear that you’ll be more destructive than constructive – but sometimes things have to be broken down. Some of us are called to be iconoclasts. You’re in a difficult position though because you have a role that involves looking after people wherever they may be at.

    Number 10 surprised me. I got a sense of you as a little child fearing being in the wrong. It sounded regressive somehow. That one is the most dangerous fear as it can undermine your being. You need to have a deep, intuitive knowledge that you’re right.

  • JonS

    Tiggy said “need to have a deep, intuitive knowledge that you’re right”

    Isnt that the precise issue with religion in general? I struggle with that because I have met too many “right” -eous people, especially the one in the mirror.

    although I maybe misunderstanding your statement

    As far as the fear list- NP – thanks for the guts to post it – I’m gonna write mine(not posted ;-))

  • Tiggy

    I don’t know. I’m an intuitive primarily. That’s how I operate. Intuition can be wrong. I don’t think ‘right’ is the same as ‘righteous’ – righteous seems to have a more ethical slant. I’m just very aware of the dangers of self-doubt – it leaves you so vulnerable. You can feel you’re right to ask questions, rather than feeling you have the right answers. That would be a different sort of intuitive knowledge to that of those who hand out answers and insist on them being right.

    The Sum of MY fears would look something like this:-

    7834893948303 x 73970438403802

  • Challenge your fears – continue to do it…at some point your fears may end up making decisions for you and I am not sure this is healthy either.

  • Rich

    It’s good to be honest and I know you wish the church would not crucify you for it. If you find a group of authentic inclusive believers who support you no matter what then you are blessed. I love your blog, art, and insights.

  • The Misfit Toy

    Once when I was running sound in my youth, I received a complaint about the volume. In discussing this later with the more experienced worship leader, he said this, “It isn’t rock and roll if someone isn’t complaining”.

    This is the tension of creativity and pastoral responsibility. If you are really part of a community which is moving in the art of hope, sometimes the rock and roll will offend.

    The standard answer in the church to this tension has been two fold:

    1) Work as hard as possible behind the scenes to make the rock and roll and inoffensive as possible.
    2) Make it clear in public that if you don’t like the rock and roll, there are plenty of other churches, with hints that this decision is a moral choice which reflects badly on you, not the community.

    I am absolutely in love with your list, because it engages with that tension in a completely different way, and I am cheering for you, hoping that you continue to find a way that works for your community.

  • Don’t know if this will make any difference, but you are one of my heroes. In the real sense of the word, not in the politicized-overblown-sentimental use of the word as we most often see it today. God gave us inquisitive minds and brave hearts for a reason…and it wasn’t to bow in submission to the past or common thought/practice. I pray He will ease your fears.

  • fishon

    David said, So, in the end, the perpetual struggle is to press on in spite of my fear
    ________Ah, that mean you are living life out to the fullest. David, if someone does NOT have those fears, or at least some of them—then they must be living in a cave—and you and I would never settle for a cave.

  • Tiggy

    Do you have supporters at your church? What do the punters think of you?

  • preacherlady

    As one who gave into her fears for years, I appreciate your candor. You are who you are. And whether a denomination likes it, or the board likes it, you are who you are. Think of those of us who resonate with you. We love God…we are ever exploring the depths of Spirit…and we won’t confine God to the bible or the person of Jesus(he displayed the full nature of God, but not all of God…a human existence is finite). Think of those people who hear a different drummer and who ask questions and who have been asked to hang their personality at the door to don the clone identity of whatever group they were in…they can come to you and know its safe…that their questions won’t be answered in cliches or received with disapproval. Your church is a haven for those who want a deeper relationship with God without becoming one of “them”( Think pukey pollyanna Christians with a pasted on smile who declare with Jesus in your life everything is wonderful…sort of like the cartoon you posted today). Without you, people end up in strange places on their quest. I know, because theses are the ones that find me. They’ve been to Scientology, Eckenkar, Sant Mat, and who knows where else. They need someone to tell them that they can be a Christian if they are gay, are questioning some of their church’s theology, if they smoke a cigarette or drink a glass of wine. David, God put you here to minister to his eccentric, creative children. You have a vital role to play in the lives of many people. And if the time comes when your denomination asks you to shut up or get out, realize that they are asking you to give up who you are and to give up that part of you which is vital to the salvation of those to whom you minister. If they throw you out, simply hire a hall and move yourself to a different venue.If you are sure that you are doing the will of God, and I think you are(other than those times when you wonder if you’re nuts to be doing this), then go and do it in love and peace and in the knowledge that God has your back and is aware of any problems you might run into. We need you just as you are. My prayers are with you daily…may your work be mightily blessed. P.S. Heresy isn’t always a bad thing!

  • Kim

    Tiggy, your comments and refreshing honesty bless me – as do David’s.

    I heard some advice from someone wise last week who said that self doubt was the real threat to our effectiveness. He said ‘never doubt in the darkness what God has showed you in the daylight’.

    A little twee perhaps but I found it very helpful as sometimes God does show us something, about who we are, and if that is non-conformist in any way society can make us question it. But some of us ARE born to be different, odd, awkward, questioning. Learning to embrace that can be difficult but when we do, its helpful to others who are also that way.

    Its quite liberating to admit to fears. I will try and do my own list. Thanks for pointing us in directions that are healthy and helpful.

  • As some have already noted, your list begs for authenticity in our own lives. Mine are posted at my own site. Thanks David.

  • ttm

    I was really struggling with your #10 for the past week or so. It’s not easy to let the struggle permeate. It’s easier to say “Of course, I’m not a heretic!” and smugly get on with life. It’s so much simpler to say “I”m so sick of feeling like I don’t fit with these Christians, I MUST be a heretic.” and leave that community. The hardest thing is to say, “Gee, I might be a heretic. Search my heart God. Will you tell me what YOU see?”

    Two really good friends reminded me of who I am and am not. The Spirit showed up in a way that reminded me that even in the darkest of questions, He is there, embracing and sustaining. And I reminded myself that maybe the reason it’s called the narrow path is because I will get squeezed on the journey. Sometimes I’m surprised there’s anything left to wring out of this shriveled soul…

    Fears come and go. Fears taunt and teach. But real friends love and the Spirit remains…

  • Hamuel

    “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

  • Gav

    Dude, I hear you. I have the same anxieties. What if it’s the people who “have it all sorted”, who are right? Those that don’t struggle?

    Then I remember Jacob, who was changed by his struggle, his wrestling.

    Honesty is hard and it hurts. We’re all in it together. If more people were real, we wouldn’t have so many people in chains.

    God bless you. The Bible says something like “contest for your faith” I think – to fight every day, for a fight it is and will be until Jesus returns.

    – Gav

  • It’s a tough thing to be faithful to the Word, and let the chips fall where they may.

    You may not be quite so popular, but hey, we are only on this earth for a short while.

  • Tiggy

    What do you WANT to see happen? And how can you build bridges to people in your congregation community? You have to find a meeting point.

  • preacherlady

    Tiggy…you hit the nail on the head about building bridges. Isaiah58:12 :…and ye shall be the repairers of the breach.” We need to be building bridges from wherever someone is to the Love of the Father rather than alienating them because they may think differently.

  • Tiggy

    Some of us need an earthly father before we can connect with a heavenly one. I know you will probably disagree with me on that, but that’s my long experience. The last thing I need is an absent, non-physical father.

    Yes, it’s no good David going off into the higher realms of some abstract theology and leaving his congregation behind. You have to connect with things that are tangible and real. David, w hy not try using your artwork to communicate in church. I know a vicar here who does that. We have a special monthly service called Space in which we look at various types of works of art (or copies of them) and meditate and reflect on them. Sometimes we talk about what we’ve experienced afterwards. It’s very enriching and special and brings us together.

  • preacherlady

    Tiggy…David has to be able to continue on his own spiritual quest as well as minister to his congregation. I’m sure he meets them where they are but also shares that his own search brings him into some places that aren’t usually spoken of and lets them know that if they question and arrive at some strange answers that its ok and in fact it is part of the process of a spiritual quest. God ,as Father’ can’t be under stood without working through what Father means to you. As it turns out, Jesus uses the metaphor of Father because in Oriental thought of that day the first born son was thought to inherit all, including character traits, from his father. Thats why, in the new testament context, the phrase sons of God is not gender specific.

  • Tiggy

    I guess I was thinking more of him building bridges to and meeting with those who aren’t necessarily questioning. I would have thought those were the ones he has difficulty with in his work. I’ve become interested lately in building bridges between Progressives and Evangelicals (I don’t mean evangelicals)

    ‘working through what Father means to you’

    And what if it means something bad?

  • preacherlady

    tiggy…and what if it means something bad? Don’t use it as a definition of God, because you will short circuit into what father is to you. God is not a child molesting alcoholic, and yet to some of us that what father is, deep down inside. Find a metaphor that works for you. There are some nuns on the south side of Chicago who were dealing with kids who didn.t know their fathers and quite often were being brought up by their grandmas. They found that grandma God worked in getting the Love of God conveyed to the children. Its very important to know what the word God means to you…particularl what you were taught as a child.

  • Tiggy

    Hmm, presumably their grandmas loved them. I don’t have anyone like that and never have had so I can’t think of a personal metaphor, only impersonal ones and I’m not sure they work in the same way.

  • I found that post very helpful, np. Thank you.

    Sorry I’ve not been by here much of late. I go through phases with blogging…

  • peter

    i am scared about number 10 also, although i do not say “i am scared i am wrong” but “i am scared i am mistaken”. i also am scared that i’m not doing enough. not as in “i am not doing enough because there is a set line that you have to cross to get in” but “i know i am not giving 100% of myself to christ 100% of the time, and even though that is forgiveable, i am somehow not trying 100% to get 1 more percent out of myself today.” i don’t know if that makes sense.

    i know nobody could do enough or be enough, and we have christ to fall back on. but i guess that is my fear — do i do enough so that when i fall back, i fall back on christ and on the cross, or do i fall into the pit?

    i didn’t go help the poor today, i cussed, i ate salty sugary caffeine fatty food. i didn’t try. some days it is all i can do to get out of bed, and some days when i get out of bed i feel like that was truly an act of god. other days, i am up and at ’em and then i just sit there and nothing, i play video games. i don’t even do selfish things that are healthy, like go to a movie, get a massage, walk in the park. i don’t tell someone i love them. i curse “Them” and blame “Them” and don’t ask for forgiveness for “Them” nor for myself.

    i know i will always miss The Mark. yet i still fear that i will miss it so much that Christ won’t reach out far enough to catch me. and then isn’t that a sin to fear that Christ would be so stingy to die on a Cross and then at the very end, deign to not reach that extra half inch when i’m having a bad day or being full of pride? i am sinning by placing my salvation on the condition of my mood or effort, that Christ will meet me in the middle when there is no middle of infinity and no middle of eternity. Christ came all the way.

    OK i feel better having named a fear. i hope you do too naked pastor. i wish i could go to your church. i really would love to be led by somebody who feels what i feel and is courageous enough to say that even though he is the pastor and this is his church and there is nothing to be afraid of because Christ found us and not the other way around, yet he still gets scared.

    thanks for admitting your weakness, thanks for not lying to us, to yourself, to God. sincerely, an internet parishoner.

  • peter

    i must add, i am a gay, hiv positive, christian (born again southern baptist style) and all 3 of those aren’t going to change any time soon, and that rapture never came in 1978 or 81 or 86 and i might die. i am on disability, i am wanting to go back to work because i simply don’t know how to be sick or not work. i do not believe in coincidence. i am a math/geek/science type (and also an arty smarty type) and there have been too many random coincidences in my life for there to exist any such thing as randomness. just today, on, the dream job in my company that i’ve waited 10 years to come up, it came up, a transfer to NYC, everything i wanted, it came up this summer the very week i went from short term disable to permanent disable. and it’s still posted on monster as of this morning. they are hiring 50 new people and this is a good company, i would retire from it (if i stay on disability and live till 65, i get full pension anyways) and the original job just dropped into my lap on a silver platter 15 years ago out of the blue 2 seconds before i realized i needed it. and then the recruiter in the city in florida i fell in love with called and left a voicemail (he calls for a check in every six months — even in this economy!). i WOULD have gotten the job, though i was 3 levels underqualified. this would be the least underqualified of any job i ever had, i am not afraid of not knowing how, there is not time enough to be afraid in this position and this company, and if you screw it up, you aren’t lucky enough to get fired — you fix it. and in 15 years at my job, there won’t be another opening in my old group another 6 years, when X retires (and NOBODY will take X’s job, we know better), at 15 years there still remains only about 2 people with less seniority. so this new job came up, i was bitterly disappointed, god waving it in my face, me not being qualified but 15 years of experience in the business and this new ground floor from scratch spin off that will eventually get spun back in, and the job is a lateral move technically, but in reality i was the top of the old ladder, and the lateral move would be to the bottom of the next higher up ladder. nowhere to go but up. and if i fail, i can go back on disability, it’s the same company. and six months later, they still haven’t filled the 50 positions in NYC. in NYC there are a million programmers who could meet the technical needs, so why on earth haven’t they filled it. it’s because they can’t find someone who understands the gigantic umbrella of the tax system and banking system and all that junk and how everything fits in relation to everything else.

    so sorry for usiing your bandwidth, but a HUGE PRAYER REQUEST if you are reading this folks: i’m weak, i have some brain damage, i’ve died 10 times in 15 years, there is no reason i should be alive. but i’m so bored of facebook and solitare and stupid crystal castles games and etc. and i am physically weak, but that would change in 2 weeks from walking to and fro work. and i know 10 people within a mile of the location, and i have 3 places to crash plus craigslist for a permanent place to live, and i’d be in 3 bands and 10 movies the second i set foot in nyc (i have a bunch of art-phag friends, i was six hours from being “gay nazi #6” on some horror movie last time, that’s the low caliber of fun, art for arts sake). so the job, i could do it, it would be LESS for me to have to keep in my head than last job. only TWO frustrating convoluted tax laws, not the whole of the USA tax system and a few other countries’ to keep in mind as i write software. so a month to become an expert on the technical aspects, thanks to microsoft and my own laziness, i am better at stealing from others’ code than writing my own, and that is The Best Practice actually.

    so prayers please, should i stay on disability, and i could whine and moan enough, and i am probably a fool for trying to be anything other than a disabled aids case with a disintegrating back and diabetes and brain damage who should not be testing my luck in nyc. but prayers, my goal is to work until i drop dead. in NYC i would have things to do other than work, but i don’t want to lose God or God to lose me. i want to disappear into the city, i feel safer in Times Square on New Years Eve anonymous, than I do around my family or ex lovers, who are venemous snakes that I still try to forgive for a lifetime of hell. I don’t want to lose my soul, but I don’t want to lose my mind.

    and I worry too much. So it’s time to turn it over to God, and my therapist, who i met under the most amazing of “coincidence” that we laugh about. If I had just one friend like him I would not need a therapist like him. And I have friends like him I am not close to, in NYC area. The ones who said they love me, they abandoned me. It has been amazing who didn’t abandon me when I got sick (hint: don’t be gay and get sick. homosexuals can be nastier than bitter small town baptist widows).

    So, prayers for Peter please.

    And NakedPastor, you are the only place in the world I can ask this prayer. To quote U2 “Acrobat” (which WHY won’t they play live???) “I’d join the movement if there was one i could belive in, i’d break bread and wine if there was a church i could receive in, cause i need it now!”

    So prayers, I need them n ow. To know what to do. To shut up and let god talk.

    Don’t forget, “They” can do whatever they want, but we were dreamed up by a divine Love, star dust, not for sale. We are called out from the maelstrom and God wrote the new name for me on His hand before the universe was created, and one day he will whisper it in my ear.

    It’s just the getting thru today part. Getting thru this life.

    Thanks again sorry for hijacking someone else’s blog. I’d love to treat everyone to a soda or coffee (i can’t have caffeine) and just talk.

  • hey peter. quite a story. of course you are welcome here. and we hold you up.

  • Tiggy

    Hi Peter, you sound delightful! It’s great to be both arty and sciency. You should live where you can feel happiest and safe and more at home and where there are people you can relate to. It can make such a difference.

    You need to ditch that Southern Baptist guilt stuff. There wasn’t much point in Christ dying for you if you’re going to go around feeling bad all the time like you have to achieve some unattainable level of morality – and one person’s piety is another person’s neurosis. You’re not supposed to keep striving all the time like you have to climb some mountain to Heaven.

    Do you go to an MCC church?

  • preacherlady

    Hi, Peter…its a shame you’re not in Chicago,you’ld fit in fine with our diverse little group. Of course I’ll pray for you…for wisdom, for direction, for health. I know first hand what an autoimmune disease can do to you. I had systemic lupus for 26 years…and then God healed me. In the next 32 years, I’ve never had another episode. Tiggy is right…let go of the guilt and just be…let God love you…and love yourself, just as you are. I’m sorry that you’re running into a bunch of bitchy queens…when I was at my sickest it was a bunch of gay men that helped me through. They took me to lunch, they did my hair(in fact they consulted with my dermatologist as to what they could or couldn’t do), and when I couldn’t get out of bed they brought lunch over and made me laugh. For this reason the gay community has always had a special place in my heart. Just remember that God has not abandoned you. Its part of the promise “…when you go through the waters, I will be with you…when you go through the fire, I shall be there…”. Shalom