31 Aug Wormy Situations
In my denomination all pastors are encouraged to be part of a clergy group. There are no guidelines about the groups—who or how many can be in them, how they are structured, what the group focuses on, etc. So, there are some all-female groups, some are all-male and some are mixed gender. There are some all-Presbyterian groups and some that are made up of pastors from various denominations or even various faith traditions. The main goal is to participate in a group where you find mutual support and encouragement as well as accountability.
I am blessed to be part of a clergy group that is comprised of nine women. We meet once a month, but in addition, twice a year we get away for a three-day retreat. Our retreats are a combination of fun, rest and work. I love these “no make-up, come-as-you-are” events, and they minister to me, body, soul and spirit. After our last retreat, I had to either come home or buy bigger pants. There are some awesome cooks among my “gal pals,” and we put together some feasts worthy of a feature article in Bon Appetite.
While food is a significant part of our group dynamic, it is the conversations that change me. On our last retreat we talked about all kinds of topics, as we always do. Many of them are mundane: kids’ sports games, recent church committee meetings, gym regimens, leaky plumbing at the church, upcoming vacations. But, many more of our conversations touch on the profound: issues with aging parents or struggling teenagers, leadership challenges, potential vocation transitions, concerns for ill or grieving parishioners and for our own illnesses and griefs. All of these conversations are holy. None was more profound or holy for me than our conversation about worms.
It was, fittingly, the last conversation we had before I left. We had just finished worship and had concluded by praying with and for one another. We were acutely aware that God was among us and that God had been speaking to us and through us to each other. That was when one of the women turned to me and said, “You know, worms are actually a good thing. The dung they leave behind makes the soil more fertile and better prepared to help something new to grow and thrive. Maybe the question for you is, ‘what is the new thing God wants to bring out of this mess of worms you’re dealing with?’”
I just hate it when that happens.
She was totally right, of course. I’d been sharing how some relatively minor annoyances hadn’t been feeling so minor. Instead, it felt like I was alone in a barnyard, waist-deep in manure, shovel in hand. I don’t want to deal with this stuff. I don’t have the energy. I resent how much of my time it takes. But, it’s my responsibility. I can’t wriggle out of it, and I certainly can’t leave it alone. It already stinks. I need to deal with it.
Perhaps you’ve got a pile of worms in your life, too. If not now, then you have had or will have at some point. They are really unavoidable. I don’t love dealing with wormy situations, but it does help me to realize that the dung that I find so repugnant is the very stuff that fosters and enables new life. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is not a coincidence. After all, Jesus is the master of bringing redemption out of suffering, hope out of despair, resurrection out of death. As someone who wants to follow him and to be more like him, I need to allow him to use the messes of life to shape me into a more Christ-like disciple.
So, keep that shovel handy. And, if you can, maybe say a prayer of thanks for all the worms in your life.
Yours for the Kingdom,