Growing Pains

Growing Pains March 22, 2006

The following appeared our March Calvary Caller. I get a whole page every month, you know–the Pastor’s Column. Whenever I write these things I wonder who reads them . . . if anyone. This month, though, I’ve already stopped counting how many people have mentioned the article to me.

Must’ve struck a chord . . . .

I am also beginning to notice that the life of our congregation often mirrors themes and trends in my own life, so hearing all the comments this piece made me think of one of my favorite Sara Groves’ songs: Painting Pictures of Egypt. In it she writes about the story of the Israelites tramping through the desert to the Promised Land wishing so much they were back in Egypt where everything was at the very least familiar.

I feel that way sometimes; I think a lot of us at Calvary feel that way right now, on the verge of this big change. So, here’s the column and the lyrics.

It was a few weeks ago that I was driving down 16th street NOT late for my meeting (very unusual) when a car turned into the driver’s side of my car. For the record, it seems that I was clearly not at fault (also very unusual).

As a result of this accident I had to take some time off work and sit around with a heating pad on my neck. And while I am currently back at work, I still have a rather sore neck.

My point in recounting this story is that in the wake of my accident I had an experience that was more painful than whiplash, more painful even than the $10,000 worth of repairs on my brand new Toyota. You’ll never believe it, but the most painful part was . . . stepping aside.

It’s hard for some people to understand the strange compulsion we preacher types have, the compulsion to be needed. It’s unlikely that this is news to any of you, but just in case . . . did you know that it’s very difficult to do anything without the preacher? Can’t get married, can’t go to the hospital, can’t die . . . all along you thought that was because it was the pastor’s job to be there.

I can’t speak for all pastors, of course, but here I confess my own need for you all to need me, and for the entire church (if not the whole world) to live under threat of complete collapse if not for the influence of my steadying hand.

Go ahead, laugh.

Sometimes I live with that delusion, though, and that was part of the pain I felt when I realized that, in the blink of an eye that morning on 16th Street I had suddenly opted out of monthly Church Council meeting, weekly staff meeting, a marriage counseling session, staff supervision sessions and—horror of horrors—Sunday worship.

Well, you’ll never believe what happened.

Everything went along quite fine without me.

The Church Council met and carried on; the staff still has everything under control; the wedding is going ahead, even with rescheduled premarital counseling; and worship, well worship was beautiful. All this, even without me there.

These thoughts were on my mind last week when I noticed that there is a significant number of new church members populating important committees and boards in the church structure this year. It’s been a few years of rebuilding but it seems like this is a notable year . . . with the work of the Nominating Committee finished and with us well in to the new year, there are many newer church members holding important leadership positions.

In light of this revelation I started to think that some long-time, dedicated members might feel, like I did after my accident, a strange mixture of relief and a little bit . . . okay, a rather significant amount . . . of pain. Things just aren’t the way they used to be. Usually we don’t do things that way (Staff members solving problems on their own? New ideas updating and streamlining old procedures? These are good things!).

I can feel the pain that change brings on, but I also have learned a very important and painful lesson, that lesson being that while I am clearly important and needed . . . well, so is everybody else.

And everything will go on just fine (maybe not the same . . . maybe . . . even . . . better!) while I sit with my feet up for awhile.

So, for all of you old-timers feeling the pain of change, let me assure you . . . I know how you feel. And, the contribution you have made over the years through hours and hours of hard work and unflagging commitment, well, that’s the very thing that has brought us to this point in the first place. Thank you.

Things won’t be the same with all these new folks bringing in new ideas; they won’t be the same, but they might be just as good . . . maybe . . . even . . . better!

You have quite a task ahead of you as you try to teach the new folks what it takes to live a life of commitment to God’s work here at Calvary. But while their enthusiasm is carrying the day, take advantage of the break. Put your feet up for a little while; you haven’t been able to rest for quite some time. Things will change, but as long as we’re all in this together it will seem more like an adventure and less like . . . well, less like an accident!

Painting Pictures of Egypt
I don’t want to leave here I don’t want to stay
It feels like pinching to me either way
The places I long for the most
Are the places where I’ve been
They are calling after me like a long lost friend
It’s not about losing faith
It’s not about trust
It’s all about comfortable
When you move so much
The place I was wasn’t perfect
But I had found a way to live
It wasn’t milk or honey
But then neither is this

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacked
The future seems so hard
And I want to go back
But the places that used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned
And those roads closed off to me
While my back was turned
The past is so tangible
I know it by heart
Familiar things are never easy to discard
I was dying for some freedom
But now I hesitate to go
Caught between the promise
And the things I know
If it comes too quick
I may not recognize it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?
If it comes too quick
I may not appreciate it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?

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