Friday, April 20, 2007

Resolving Office and Person

This is the third time I’ve put up a post with this title. The first two times I thought better of it and deleted what I’d written. I deleted the previous posts because I wondered in hindsight whether I had perhaps compromised some people even if I didn’t name them. So this post will be general.

Since last fall I’ve posted seven or eight times on the theme of struggling to find the right balance between exercising an “office” and being recognized as a “person”. During that time I have been trying to relearn how to minister to young adults, trying to become more open and accessible, more personal, without abdicating authority or pastoral effectiveness. I had come to think that this is what most people of that generation want in a pastor rather than the formal over-professional distance that was preferred when I was trained. Most of the time I felt that I was not doing too well.

One insight that came to me strongly several times during the early part of this year is that one factor that kept me from making the progress I wanted and hoped for was that I was paying too much attention to wondering how I was doing. When I thought about myself and my progress too much, I lost the way. I had taken my eyes off Jesus, and that made it difficult for me to see others clearly either. When I thought about how I was relating to others, I didn’t do too well because I had become self-conscious and therefore wasn’t thinking of them as lovingly as I wanted.

One of my favorite passages in Scripture is Isaiah 30:21— “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears shall hear a voice behind you, saying, This is the way; walk in it.” I have mentioned this verse once or twice in previous blogposts on the subject of “office and person”. In the past few weeks, through a number of incidents and experiences both painful and exhilarating, this passage has come fruitfully true for me. I know better now how to minister in this new way. My new boundaries are pretty well set now and comfortable.

I would never have guessed it, never could have anticipated that “the way” would be pointed out in such a fashion. Through juxtaposed loss and affirmation came the finding of the path: “This is the way; walk in it.” I can even look back and see that it was there all the time. In fact, I had been walking it much of the time already without knowing it. God anticipated me, accompanied me, prepared the way, and led me. He is still doing so.

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