Some times it takes time. For 25 years I have served as a parish priest. Part of being a priest is the constant reminder or visual symbol I offer to demonstrate the great importance we always have of forgiveness and to forgive others. Every Sunday I offer the absolution, a verbalization of God’s forgiveness to God’s people; not only to help people know that they are forgiven but also to demonstrate that we all need to be forgiving others all the time.
With this in mind, I find myself recovering from stubbornness of my soul or hardheadedness of my desires. Throughout my tenure in the ordained ministry I always wanted or sought out affirmation from my peers or the larger church. I wanted to fit in or be seen as someone who might have something to offer. There was some sort of emotional need I felt, that such an affirmation by the diocese or larger church would fill. For years, I would volunteer to serve on committees or run for an office or participate in one way or another in the larger church and it almost always seemed to end in disappointment. From these frustrations I felt hurt and unheard and sometimes became angry or upset. It was not from any one person or even diocese that this frustration occurred, and towards whom I could focus my hurt. Only after nearly 25 years have I finally begun to see that this is simply my desire to find something in a place where it will never be found or trying to do something that is not going to happen, like boiling water in the freezer.
Why did I keep trying? I think that part of the answer can be found in me seeking meaning or purpose in some other place than where I happen to be. If these other people or the larger church thought I was someone special, maybe that would make me someone special. I am coming to the realization, somewhat sheepishly as I probably should have learned this sooner, that longing for something else to give me meaning is not going to work. In fact it is a form of coveting. I wanted something “out there”, that I didn’t have. In discovering, or finally becoming content, that my place or ministry is not in the larger church, but simply in the small parish where I serve has helped me to let go of much of the backed up feelings of frustration towards the larger church and relax in the comfort of forgiveness. It is still easy to get distracted by activities in the larger church, but it is becoming clear to me that the distractions are simply distractions, keeping me from myself and the activity of grace in the present set of circumstances.
The greatest effect I have had in my ministry is being present with individuals, not in activities or accomplishments I might list on a resume’. And still, there lurks the shadow that somehow, something will happen and things will be different. Different is not really what I want, it is to be more alive and accept myself and my limitations. I am standing in the heart of the kingdom of God, eternity itself, and somehow being tempted by the tedium and monotony of illusion.