It’s tough to age – my left knee hurts from the weather change and moisture in the air, plus I used some muscles the other day in ways that aren’t my usual routine. I played disc golf for the first time with one of the pastors in the district. I have a birthday coming up in a couple of weeks and that milestone always makes me think about my life and what matters, and what hurts.
I was reading the Book of James this morning for my quiet time and a verse jumped out at me. James 4:5 says “…the Spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely.” That’s an interesting thought and powerful. What it says to me is that God is so desirous of intimacy with us that it’s like envy. Sounds almost sinful, but God covets (another borderline word) relationship with us. Wow!
I remember the rose-on-the-bloom days of being a new Christian when the thought behind every thought was about Jesus. It’s not so much that I don’t love Jesus that intensely anymore, but our relationship has deepened like my 32 years of marriage to Cindy. It’s wonderful, solid, and we still have date nights and fun together. It’s not infatuation. It’s deeper than that. I hope that the way it is between Jesus and me.
However, I do find myself jaded by being a D.S. and seeing the ins-and-outs of church and clergy shortcomings. There are those times when I simply can’t seem to get enough spiritual nourishment or inoculation to keep me from having more than a small degree of cynicism. I have been opening up the end of charge conferences as a town hall-style format that uncorks some of the most peculiar questions. There are important questions but some are downright wacky. I’ve had at least one clergy make a — out of himself with racist comments and I tried to gently yet firmly suggest that he might be better off to stop talking.
I used to say to ding-dong questions that were nothing more than a passive-aggressive traps, “I have no opinion.” In my gaining years my face or voice can’t pull off that subterfuge. I do have an opinion. My new tactic to hear people without giving them approval or judgment is to say, “That’s interesting.” I have found it’s important to not shake your head or move your eyebows when you do this or words will be put in your mouth after the meeting. Just look them straight in the eye, don’t blink, don’t head-bob, and don’t show your teeth – “That’s interesting.”
Call it what you will but what I’m trying desperately to do is to defect in place, exhibit non-anxious presence, and let the people figure out their mess on their own. I need to know where I stand, especially where I stand in relation with this God who is envious of my relationships. I can and will talk about Jesus without hedging or wavering. That matters much more than interpreting the Discipline or pampering a recalcitrant church. As Matthew puts it, “See ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you,” or in my case I hope it’s some subtraction of the distractions.