The first was from a website called "My OB said WHAT?!?" that was actually a comment from a hospital chaplain that made me physically ill. You can read about it here. At first I tried to make myself feel better by saying "Well, maybe this wasn't really a chaplain, but some sort of community volunteer who didn't know what they were doing." But the fact of the matter is, it very well could have been a trained (and possibly even board certified) chaplain. And I wanted to assume that it was a male and therefore use it as the perfect example of why women are so crucial in ministry. But I can't assume this was a male because sometimes the women think even less before opening their mouths, which is also appalling. Bottom line - this person was representing the presence of God in the midst of an incredibly painful situation and mucked it up royally. And as someone who is passionate about providing pastoral care to those in need and has been that "official representative" of the chaplain's office to women experiencing similar difficult times, I can feel nothing but shame and humiliation to have something in common with this person, whoever he or she may be!
What was really important to me was reading some of the comments that were left, and how many had responded to similar situations they faced, which unfortunately emphasizes the fact that there are too many people who seem to have lost the connection between their brain and their heart (but seem to have incredible flexibility when it comes to their feet and their mouth!) And what is even more unfortunate is that they seem to have very little concept of their authority and influence.
At the same time as I'm trying to process all of this, I was also reading Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I picked it up. For the most part, I love Miss Julia. But there were so many times when I wanted to put the book down and say "I don't like this, I don't want to read anymore," because of Miss Julia's pastor. It was a stab to the gut to read. The only redeeming factor is the way Miss Julia handles the whole thing (and that she recognizes that what he is saying is absolute cow-puckey). Yes, I know that this is fiction. But that's just this example. And if there is one thing I have learned from working in the church, it's that you can't make half of this stuff up! It's not too much of a stretch to see and hear someone saying this very same sort of thing. If you want the juicy details you'll have to read the book. But it's embarrassing, because these are the bridges that are burned by others that those of us who come along afterwards have to try to rebuild.
Before you can build a new bridge, you have to take down the one that's damaged, but may still be holding on in spite of all those scars and whatever other problems may have come in during the meantime. You salvage what you can, but sometimes there is nothing to be salvaged and you have to start fresh! It takes time. And energy. And even then the bridge doesn't do any good unless someone is willing to step out onto it and venture across! It's unfortunate. The hardest thing I have had to learn how to do in my pastoral life is demolition. Unfortunately, there are weak foundations (or even missing ones) or pieces that have been damaged that I have to come in and try to un-do so I can begin the process of building, and it seems contrary to what I thought I needed to do, but it is important and necessary and must be done with a certain level of care. Sure, anyone can come in swinging a sledgehammer and knock the heck out of something. That's the easy part. But that really only works if you want to take out the whole house and don't give a rip about anything that exists (or once existed)! Otherwise you're going to end up with more damage than you bargained for, and no good way to fix it. But if you take your time and know what you're doing, not only can you demo the things that need it, you will probably be able to salvage the pieces so that they can be put back later, but with the correct support (and maybe a little face lift!)
But let's take a step back and rewind a little bit here. Because let's look at what I've already said about all these things and why I'm so upset. Do you see it? I am absolutely asserting my authority and my role as a pastor and leader and caregiver. And the best part is, I don't even have to try. It has become so much a part of my identity that it simply happens, even when I'm goofing around online and dreaming about my future baby or when I'm on vacation reading a book that's supposed to be light and fun.
So first of all, let me say a huge "I'm sorry" to anyone who has been hurt by those in these ministerial authority roles. Maybe the fact that I've been there is what makes me so stinking determined to be a better example of what ministerial responsibility is all about.
Secondly, I can't believe how much I have grown and I am looking forward to growing even more. Stay tuned for more on this awesome journey and thank you for being a part of it!