In my denomination, those of us on the track heading for ordination as Ministers of Word and Sacrament meet annually with a committee which oversees our progress, such as it is. My last meeting with my committee was in June, right after my graduation from seminary. One of the main topics of discussion, of course, was my need to re-take the exegesis exam. (Exegesis, in case you're wondering, essentially means interpretation. In this context, it means the kind of research and interpretation of a Biblical text you would undertake prior to writing a sermon. It's kind of like writing a research paper in English about a passage in Hebrew or Greek.)
A couple of days after that June meeting, one of the committee members, a retired pastor, called me at home and said that he wanted to make a suggestion. "You can ignore it, "he said. "I've been a pastor for a long time; I've done all kinds of training and pastoral care. But I've never been through anything like what you have, so I may be completely off the mark. Do whatever you want with my idea. I could be completely wrong about it, and I certainly don't want to offend you."
Here it comes, I thought, and sat down at the kitchen table. Breathe deeply. Finally someone is going to say it: What do you think you're doing? It's time for you to give up. People whose children die by suicide cannot become pastors.
"Do you think," he asked, "that you could take the exam in honor of your son's memory? Would that help?"
And so I am off to Pittsburgh tomorrow to try to do just that. And Wednesday I will come back to honor my sons' 26th birthdays, and on Thursday we will mark Josh's absence from us for two years.
Josh ~ High School Graduation ~ 2003