Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sometimes the Only Person You Have in the World is a Stranger

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living.

It was a cowboy’s life, a life for someone who wanted no boss.

What I didn’t realize was that it was also a ministry.

Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a moving confessional. Passengers climbed in, sat behind me in total anonymity, and told me about their lives. I encountered people whose lives amazed me, ennobled me, and made me laugh and weep.

But none touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night.

Read the rest. As I process all that I have experienced in the past year, I try not to overreact and overcorrect so that I reject the good with the bad. What did I experience in the Church that was actually good, and should not be tossed out with that which was exploitative and manipulative?

A co-worker asked me if there was anything that I missed about pastoring. And I said "Hell, no!" and then modified the statement. I missed being important in the lives of hurting people. I remember once, about two hours before Sunday morning worship, getting a call at the parsonage from a community resident that I didn't know about her suicidal child. I remember sitting with people mourning their lost spouses. I remember being present while several people died. I remember being present in the midst of suffering and helping people heal.

That was good work. And as I've written before, it is a universally needed work. It was certainly more important than what I'm doing now.

Still, I'm taking care of myself and my family, and getting paid for it rather well. And I don't lie awake at night in terror at whatever salacious lie some "saint" at the church is going to say about me, nor wonder what dumbass thing my DS is about to do next. Nor does my wife have to put on a fake smile and perform to the demands of others at my workplace.

It is a return to sanity and normalcy, and I had forgotten what those things were. Reflecting on the past year, it's amazing what I had allowed to become normalized in my life -- the lies, the manipulation, and the fear that never fully unknotted in my stomach. And even though I'm not helping the hurting anymore, I wouldn't trade it for that hellish existence for a minute. I'm still hurting badly from what happened to me in the past, but I like where I am now.

So I guess that someone else will have to drive the taxi from here on out.

HT: Grow-A-Brain


Divers and Sundry said...

"Nor does my wife have to put on a fake smile and perform to the demands of others..."

It's sad she thought she had to do that as a ministerial spouse.

trekkerjay said...

Not all ministries involve organized religion or "hellish existences"... you may yet be able to find ways to be "important in the lives of hurting people"... through whatever you might be doing at the time...

John said...

That's quite true, trekkerjay.

John said...

It's sad she thought she had to do that as a ministerial spouse.

Yeah. I take it that that is SNAFU for ministerial spouses, particularly wives.

RevAnne said...

I don't know, John, as Ben and I are hardly conventional clergy spouses. I guess they can't complain too much that I meet none of their expectations, because I am a pastor somewhere else. And the same goes with his folks.
On the flip side, in previous appointments, along with my essential girlness, which could be a problem for some,there was the complaint that they never got to see my husband, or Ben's crowd complained that they never see me. My experience is hardly normative, but I will say that most of the churches we've served have learned to change their expectations. Not all, but most. It helped that we had support from our DS.
As to the helping hurting people, I suspect that's an essential part of who you are, and you'll find a way to do that again that isn't abusive. So sorry you had that experience, especially in the denomination I'm a part of. Glad to hear you're healing.

John said...

I'm glad to hear that you've found a good balancing point, RevAnne.

Zen Moments said...

Thanks for linking to Zen Moments - it's much appreciated. It gives us such a buzz when our articles generate thoughtful discussion like this - glad that you and your wife are finding a way to live a more authentic life - it's so important to all of us.

If you have any articles or links suitable for sharing on our site, we'd love to hear from you:

We are looking for real life stories of small human responses that make a huge difference… times when we stop pushing to try to get somewhere else, when we open our hearts and minds to the present moment, to that which is right in front of us… moments of humour, insight, wisdom or compassion, when true awareness makes us see with fresh eyes…