Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sorting Hat: Ministry 1.75

We all know about the sorting hat, right?  The Harry Potter hat that lingers over the heads of the students at Hogwarts, sorting them into houses, offering each of them a first taste of identity and assigning to them a place in community?

Now that I've been pastoring for all of 1.75 years, I'm beginning to sense the process of sorting in my own life.  I confess, however, that it has felt more like that illustrated in the photo above:  blinding, confusing, baffling, and altogether too big for me.

When I hopped into my little red car (ok, so it's a Corolla, not a Fiat) and sped off to seminary nearly six years ago, I felt confident and energetic and brimming with hope.  And, indeed, despite that towering and utterly un-transfigured mountain named Greek, all worked out.  I made friends, did well academically, and found what looked to be my place in student life. 

And then Josh died.  The tsunami effect of a child's death by suicide is beyond description.  My efforts to articulate the consequences raging through my life can themselves be described only as a monumental failure.  But those aftereffects do include the tumultuous destruction of self-confidence and the bulldozing of energy and hope. 
And yet . . . je suis ici.  And thriving, in spite of myself.  Who would have ever guessed?
And beginning to sort through my successes and failures of the last 1.75 years, both personal and professional.
We have a brilliant general presbyter at the helm of our Presbytery, and one of the things to which she has committed herself is the development of first-call pastors.  The trickle-down effect is making itself felt, which means that I am settling more comfortably into the "strength-based leadership" she emphasizes.  (I wish someone had shared this with me when I was a young attorney all those centuries ago.  My son graduates from law school day after tomorrow, and I hope he listens!) 
Interestingly, my successes and failures run the gamut.  Surprising moments of triumph and equally surprising moments of defeat manifest themselves across the board.  It doesn't seem to matter whether I'm operating out of a momentary strength or a dash of weakness.
The difference seems to come to light in terms of how I feel about what's happened. (Ignatius would identify these movements as those of consolation and desolation.)  Especially in response to situations in which I know I could have done better.    If I'm functioning in an area in which my gifts are fairly limited, I tend to feel something along the lines of "whatever ~ thank God it's over."  If I'm roaming around a venue of strength, however, I find myself perking up, energized, wondering how I might improve upon what just went down, whether I might approach it differently next time, who else I might drag invite into the conversation.
My sorting hat is lifting itself into place, I do believe.  I'm going to be much more cognizant of my strengths and weaknesses, and begin to focus my efforts, unapologetically, on the former.
In the meantime, I "see" that as I ponder these brilliant thoughts, I have misplaced my glasses again.  I think that my strengths would be greatly enhanced by moving to a one-room house.


  1. I am not trying to be the grammar and spelling police - there are too many people like that on the internet already, and my own writing is often full of meaningless and unintentional errors. But sometimes I think typos and accidents point to a deeper reality...

    Like the line above where you wrote " I HOPED into my little red car" and drove off into an unknown future at the seminary. What a delightful image. Made me smile, and stop, and think, and pray.

    Thank you!

    1. Too funny! I am a terrible typist, but that sometimes has its benefits.

      I kind of hate to correct it.

  2. Robin, such good advice - to focus on our strengths as that is who God created us to be. I have been speaking with the RCIA Team Leader and encouraging her to allow us to use our strengths rather than expecting each team member to function the same. Thanks for the affirmation with this post.

    1. Lynda, that's exactly what we've been working on in our group of first-call pastors -- how to recognize and encourage the individual strengths of our leadership teams -- the whole body of Christ thing.