Busyness Is Business Is Booming Is Something
You know what? I didn’t really intend to get all churchy here. I do appreciate the liturgical season, but that’s just me. I don’t expect anyone else to hop on my train.
There are times when I think I’d make a good apologist for faith systems, for why we believe certain things and think other things and so on. And then I realize that I don’t really spend that much time on it. My personal theological adventures have a lot of philosophical, scientific, and psychological aspects, and that’s just three and you know what else? I’m not much of an authority when it comes to philosophy, science or psychology. Just a guy at a keyboard here.
Last night, at a very long and involved meeting at church, lots of business to accomplish, I was assigned the devotion part of the evening, just a quick item to share for reflection or discussion. I read a bit of an essay that I’d found and that had moved me, about a child’s view of the idea of God, joyful and encompassing, and existing in a broken, frightening world. His mother was the writer, and it resonated with me as the parent of children who asked big questions, all the time. I mean. All the time.
As she concluded, commenting on her own Ash Wednesday experience, she wrote, “The Gospel is an outrageous story. It is irrational to believe.”
She continued, writing that the irrational part permits us to see the beauty, which is a lovely idea that could stand a little fleshing out, if you ask me, but it started a discussion. One of the others seemed tickled by this idea of the Gospel being outrageous and irrational, and asked me if I agreed. I do, or I’m pretty sure I do, although I hadn’t spent any time thinking about it recently.
I made some offhand comment about Noah and his animals, but that’s not what we’re talking about. I have no idea about most people, even most people in my church, but I’m pretty sure most people in that room last night had a firm grip on what is metaphor and myth, and what is something else.
There was also some commentary on historicity, trying to figure out whether something actually happened or was merely poetic, metaphorical.
C.S. Lewis, a true Christian apologist, pointed out the problem with historicity and faith, particularly scripture. He pointed out that one really has to take the biblical Jesus at his word. Either he was speaking the truth, or he was a loony-tune. You can’t legitimately say, I don’t believe he was this or that, but I think he was a good guy with some interesting ideas.
But this is an onion anyway. We might question the historicity of something in Luke, say, but then we might decide to just question the writer of Luke. Or the editor of Luke. Or the translators of Luke, and then we’re off. It’s a messy business. I love it, but I don’t think I have what it takes to write about it. I just know that it’s an outrageous story, and irrational to believe, and I will wallow in all of this.
Something interesting happened last night; several things, really, but one in particular.
Some changes are happening. People are leaving jobs and changing roles, and new people are coming onboard. It’s way more involved than that, but it’s also specific and would be dull to dig into. None of this is disturbing, and much is joyful, but it’s definitely change. This is a dynamic moment for our little church. It’s kind of exciting.
One of the major changes, though, came as a complete surprise to me. It has to do with demographics—even a few years ago, we had a healthy and very active youth and children’s ministry, because we had lots of young people. And they did what we all do, which is grow up. Off to college, off to wherever. We sometimes see them at Christmas.
And now we’ve got new ones, little ones mostly. It’s a pleasure, after a few dry years, to hear little kids talking during the sermon; I’m serious. I can’t imagine someone getting annoyed, especially someone at the pulpit, at these outbursts of giggles and exclamations and loudly expressed needs regarding the bathroom. There’s a whole scene in the Gospels about this. It would be awkward to resist just enjoying it, and we don’t resist.
So we’re considering adding a new administrative role to personnel, personnel being our largest expense as a small church. And this is a pretty big add, in terms of percentage of the budget (not in terms of actual dollars, which are always going to be meager).
And I knew nothing about it, and it was my area of responsibility. I’m the elder in charge of this aspect, or I’m supposed to be, and suddenly here’s this line item in our proposed budget and no one is raising an eyebrow. I was shocked, surprised, and a little worried.
I figured it out, with some help. It turns out that this idea came up at our December meeting, when we were in Texas. I rarely miss these meetings, so that must have slipped my mind. The notation in the minutes was a little vague, too, if you weren’t actually in the room.
And I was supposed to be part of this process, but here’s the thing—I was sick. Seems like I would remember that. I was out of town for a week in January, and then I got sick, and then it snowed everybody inside, and then I got sick again, and I mostly missed everything for about two months. It doesn’t seem possible but I think that’s right. No one wanted to keep me from getting better by sending me a million emails about a personnel matter.
My feelings weren’t hurt at being out of the loop. I just was curious. But it helped me with this persistent low-level anxiety that lies just under the surface these days, and my shame at feeling so overwhelmed by things.
Because I am overwhelmed. I’m behind, I’m lagging, and I’ve got so much on my plate it makes me a little queasy. I’m not sure I’ve had a moment in the past couple of weeks when I felt I could relax, even though I’ve spent some time doing absolutely nothing and feeling terribly guilty about that.
This is beginning to take on the feel of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, something I normally sort of despise but in this situation is at least hopeful. I don’t know how to do all the things I have to do. It makes me nervous to even think about them.
But I assume I’ll get them done and survive, and maybe I’ll learn something. That’s a Lenten strategy right there, I guess. Or maybe it’ll just kill me. Really, I think it’ll work out.