Along with long lines in the mall, peppermint mocha frappe white-claws, and increasingly hyper kids at school, tis the season for Christians griping about everything from Starbuck cups to Hallmark movie channels and of course the annual, “It’s Merry Christmas, you heathen!”
Thanksgiving is over. The leftovers are still plentiful – turkey, stuffing, candied yams, maybe even a few pieces of pecan pie. Yes, that awkward dinner with the in-laws – or as I remember my dad wearing a name tag marked “Outlaw” at a family reunion – and life continues. As usual, there is no shortage of things to do, but those tasks are different around this time.
Pins and needles deep inside, slicing and stabbing as each second passes. There is no comfortable way to lay down anymore, every angle tingles with pain. She cringles from muscle cramps, from the frozen positions she calls relaxation. Her mind will not stop. Her eyes will not close. Waiting. Watching.
I remember getting one the greatest gifts ever when I was 8 years old. It was a Star Wars laser game. It came with a real laser gun and a motorized spinning wheel of storm trooper targets. I could not believe it when I saw it. I ripped open the box and started putting it together. I cannot remember if I even said, “Thanks,” but I knew my parents were pretty happy with my response. As a parent, nothing gives me more joy than to see my kids play and use presents I get them. I do not need any elaborate thanks. Or, another example is when my wife makes her usual wonderful meals, nothing thrills her more than the guests gobbling it down.
Every now and then the duties of the pastoral vocation overwhelm me. Sometimes I find being a pastor is painful and leaves me restless and unsatisfied. It usually is not the preaching and teaching which delivers the struggle. It is also not necessarily the handing over of the of the gifts, the administration of the Sacraments, that are a problem. No, the issue is usually rooted in what the older theologians discussed under the title of Seelsorge, an old German word meaning the, “care of souls.”
I had a counselling session last week. During this particular meeting, the conversation eventually came to the world being an awful, fallen place. The world sucks. After we finish our session, my counselor typically walks me to the door of the facility we meet in – that way he can see if his next counselee has arrived yet. This time, as he did so, we continued the conversation and, eventually, he gave me a simple, yet profound saying to sum up what we as human beings need to do, especially as Christians: Embrace the suck.
I have to just accept the fact, God loves me, whether I like it or not. Once in a while a pastor receives a wonderful phone call from someone who heard the Gospel. Not that he heard it for the first time, but for whatever reason the ridiculous love of God in Jesus Christ finally opened his eyes.