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What Did I Expect?

Sometimes ministry feels like one long struggle toward compassion and forgiveness

He didn't say, "Take up your sofa, the really light comfy one, and follow me." He also didn't say, "Click 'like' and follow my entertaining tweets from the comfort of your own home." Just like he didn't say, "Here's an Instagram of a dead person I raised. Share if you think I'm awesome."

My Jesus is not virtual. I sometimes wish he was. I could be all up to date with his stuff and get on with my life by 8 a.m.

But the real Jesus. My Jesus. He asks hard stuff that requires me to get off my backside and say sorry. Yeugh. Not only that, but to mean it, and forgive the back stabber, to even offer the other cheek. For real? Do you know how much this hurts? To know exactly what she's said, the words she's used, the names she's called me, in public. Not. just. once. The gargantuan effort it takes daily to let her off without retribution, shame, punishment. Gosh. It's too much, Jesus.

I want her to hurt. I want her name in tatters on the floor where she dragged mine. I want her to say it to my face so I have legitimate reason to slap her, twice (maybe three times if I'm honest). I want her to choke on the chicken casserole I took round (hoping for the slap). When I ask you to take her down, I want you to answer my fervent prayer. Seriously, Lord.

But here I am, smiling and shaking hands. Asking about her father's health, her vacation plans, talking about the weather. Because I know if I open Pandora's Box, only my dirty little heart will spill out. I'm restricted in my rage only by the fact that I'm a professional Christian and that nothing I do or say will be done or said in secret. My words and actions will affect the whole flock. They will affect the name of my Shepherd.

Maybe that's why he called me to pastor, simply to save me from shooting the sheep. By keeping me in plain view, he has a working chance at keeping his people from the violent attacks of the vicar.

I "knew" following Jesus wouldn't be plain sailing. But there's an epic difference between watching the weather forecast and living in the storm. I'm drenched by icy water, lashed by angry gales, and assaulted by the artillery fire of the rain.

What I'm saying is I just don't LIKE it right now. I don't like the whole silent acceptance thing; it feels so victimy. AND the whole no-one-will-ever-know-what-actually-went-on thing. I'm accused of a crime I didn't commit and I can't defend myself. (Yes. I GET it. I just. don't. LIKE it).

So. Options:

1. I get bitter. Meh. Not fun.

2. I stay angry. Not possible. I'll just get bitter.

3. I get hopeless. Viable, but no use to anyone, especially me.

4. I get over it and get on with it. What? Pretend? Ignore it? Bury it? Pah. Schoolgirl error. What's buried alive just crops up somewhere else. Different place, same ugly plant.

So where am I? Out of all options other than real forgiveness? Step 1: Surrender. With the sure and certain knowledge that there's not a hope in a very hot place that I can do this on my own.

I'm remembering a wise man who told me that to get to forgiveness from anger, I needed to travel through compassion. (I'm scrunching my face 'cause that's so not where I want to go.) Compassion. Come on, Debra. Look. Really look. Get to grips with her stuff. All the relentless daily knocks, the relational poverty, the percussion of grief that's shaped her life and belief. Watch. Closely. Beneath the armor. Focus. Now...allow a living sadness for her to awaken.

I think you'd better leave me here. Sometimes it takes a while. But when I finally look over the ramparts I've built, and adjust my eyes to her reality, forgiveness might just become a possibility.

When I get there (eventually), I'll discover that the way I'll look at her is just the way my Jesus looks at me.

Debra L Greyton writes to remain sane and remind herself of the bright and good . A pastor by calling, a wife by choice, a mother by the good hand of God, and the wife of a faithful pastor of God's peculiar people. "Real" and "Actual" are her watchwords. No capes allowed.

June30, 2014 at 8:00 AM

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