Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Clinging to a Rock

Let me start with a fundamental reality about myself.  
I am seriously afraid of heights.
More specifically I am afraid of falling.
I am ultra competitive when it comes to sports.  
So I usually don't step up and try unless I know I am going to win.

So enough with the confessions ...

Back when I lived in Jefferson City, Missouri the YMCA right next to the church I served as Associate Pastor built an indoor rock climbing wall.  We took our youth one night as part of a lock-in.

I figured I would try it out to show good leadership and "take one for the team", showing my "bravery" by climbing the shortest wall possible, in the quickest amount of time,
without crying in front of my youth.

After my first climb I was hooked.

I loved the adreniline of climbing, of facing my fear head on.

After having our first child, Eva, Dan and I stopped indoor rock climbing until ...

Last month when I was in St. Louis on vacation, Dan and I took our kids indoor rock climbing for the very first time.  It was amazing!

As I look at photos of me climbing it reminds me 
of how much of indoor rock climbing is clinging to a rock.
You find a hand hold or a place to put your feet that is much smaller than ideal, 
one that can give you the edge up the side of the wall.

Rarely do you get the luxury of having your whole hand grabbing onto something 
or your entire foot on something.

So you find your balance as best you can.

I try not to look down, only up.

And yes, if my daughter climbed to a certain height,
I of course had to climb higher.  
(Sorry Eva one day you will smoke me.)

The BEST part of climbing other than making it to the top for me,
is letting go at the end of a climb.

Falling safely down.

So much of our lives entails clinging onto things or people or situations or routine.  And we might even use all of our energy trying to hold on, wearing ourselves out.  
Wearing others out in our stubbornness.  
Fearful of letting go.

The thing is, at least with indoor rock climbing, even if you let go, you can always try again.  And the places that used to challenge you, those hard to reach holds, one day after practice become stepping stones and not barriers to moving forward.

The same happens in life, you have to let go in order to move up.


When I was a kid, I liked to dream a lot about what my future life would look like. 
It played out in many different ways,
with friends and with dolls. 
I would play secretary with my mom's extra office supplies of paper, 
typing machine and folders.  
I think I "worked" for a doctor, keeping patient files in order. 
Then when I attended high school the conversation was about what college we would go to and what we would major in.  
Everything we did and studied was preparing us for our future.  
So in some regard we felt like we had some sort of control over it, 
our hard work would get us to where we were headed.

I have noticed this same pattern emerging with my own children.  
They dream about their future, play it out in ways that I won't share 
because that is their story to tell and not mine.

But their telling or playing out of their future has got me thinking about how little control we actually have over our future: in that there are so many variables that we really won't ever have control over.

For instance I have heard others say,
and have said myself before having children,
"when I have kids they will surely go to bed on time without any complaining."  As a mom of an 11 and 7 year old that is a laughable and an absurd dream.  
Or "when I have kids they will eat everything on their plate and won't be picky eaters"  
or "my kids will only watch 30 minutes of t.v. a day."

Somehow in our dreaming of our future we dream about how others will act or treat us
or respect us.  And life is much more messy and complicated and hard than that.

Never did I ever dream that I would have a son with ADHD and dyslexia.  

Never did I ever dream that I would love being a mom as much as I love being a wife and a pastor.  Not because I didn't think I would love motherhood,
but because I never pegged myself as a homemaker
that bakes cookies and falls into those traditional stereotypes 
of what a woman does at home.  

Never did I dream that my children's meltdowns and tantrums would completely throw me off and reveal a side of my personality that I would rather have much more control over.

Never did I imagine that I would love someone exponentially more than I love myself (other than God).

Never did I imagine when I answered the call to serve God through pastoral ministry that the church would be going through major changes and shifts...

When I was at the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Orlando, Florida I heard about two bold and courageous congregations that have gone through major changes.  
One might not seem all that big, 
but they moved offices and made space for a nursery across from the Sanctuary and got rid of their pews so they could change the worship space as needed 
and even changed the direction that the congregation faces on Sunday morning. 
Now if you are not part of an established congregation this might not sound huge 
but for those of us who have grown up in established main-line churches this HUGE,
this is moving mountain kind of talk.

The other congregation sold their large and hard to maintain building
and went in with two other congregations from other denominations to purchase a green building that houses three worship spaces.  
Now get this, they rotate who uses each space throughout the year. 
This is HUGE.  
And as the presenters shared their reality, 
others in the room were thinking deeply and wondering out loud,
"but how does that work?" 
"We've never done church that way before."  
Or more sadly "my people would never be willing to make that much change in their church."

Both congregations have lived into the concept of honoring their past
without trying to live their past. 
They have lived into being part of a new dream,
knowing that it might not look or be just as they had imagined it to be: 
Because God rarely dreams dreams for us that are exactly the way we envisioned them to be.  So we have to be willing to change 
and to let go so we can live in the present 
with our eyes on the future.  

Easter ... ready ... set ... go!

Matthew 28:1-10 About three years ago I committed to the Narrative Lectionary.   It is a four-year cycle that takes the congregation t...