I have wanted to write about a lot of things lately, but sometimes my thoughts have trouble forming themselves into the right format for this blogging genre. I have more often wanted to write sermons, and songs, and poetry, and articles, and chapters for books. I suppose I could post all of those kinds of things on here. But something stops me... a longing, a longing for my blog resemble my favorite blogs. They're the ones that give you a sliver of someone's life at a certain moment in time, like a photograph in words. You don't know the whole story, but you're grateful to just see that one moment with such clarity.
So, while realizing that a lot has happened since May, and a lot is happening in my life that would better be told in other formats, or perhaps over a cup of coffee with you, if I haven't seen you in a while... I will give you a snapshot of my "right now."
At this moment, I see my life ahead of me as one that cannot be anything but beautiful, because I am doing what I was created to do, and I'm doing it among some of the most beautiful people in the world. I feel such a deep resonance with this work, with pastoring in this context, even as I feel completely out of place on the surface level. It is an unspeakable blessing to have this deep knowledge that God has led me to do something I love and am gifted for, and I want to bless all of you with it - I pray, especially for those of my friends who are currently searching for work and calling, that you all find a place and a way to serve that so deeply fits who you are, even if it's unexpected, and even if it takes time. I am so grateful to those who helped me discern my calling.
I believe that this will also be a challenging and often difficult life, if the last couple of weeks, or the last couple of years, are any indication. If I remain in this neighborhood, which I would love to do for as long as possible, and if my life moves in a similar path as those of my colleagues in the neighborhood, I know it will be difficult.
I just attended the memorial of a man I never met, because I wanted to observe and learn how to lead memorials. I have a sense that this will be one of my primary pastoral tasks in the DTES. There were seven of us at the memorial. My friend, who led the service, had also never met the man who passed away. All of the other attendees worked in the SRO (social housing building) where the man lived. Only one had spent any significant time with him. We spent much of the time trying to piece together who this man had been. It was a privilege to be there; God was very present.
I don't know if you can bless someone after they're dead. I don't know if this dead man was in any way touched or affected by our short service, as one woman thought he would be. But I do know that blessing people, calling God's attention to them in some mysterious way, recognizing their inherent worth and dignity as image-bearers of God, praying peace over them, is one of the little-known benefits and joys of this pastoring thing. Especially when your job is to bless a bunch of beautiful people that others seem to curse, when your job is to name and call out the beauty in them. I think this amplifies the effect. It definitely amplifies the effect on me. I need to remember these times. I will try to write about them more often.
I have the best job in the world.
In closing, a quote from Marilynne Robinson in Gilead, which Amy Hunter told me to read (thank you!), which says it better than anything I know...
"There is a reality in blessing... It doesn't enhance sacredness, but it acknowledges it, and there is a power in that. I have felt it pass through me, so to speak. The sensation is of really knowing a creature, I mean really feeling its mysterious life and your own mysterious life at the same time. I don't wish to be urging the ministry on you, but there are some advantages to it you might not know to take account of if I did not point them out. Not that you have to be a minister to confer blessing. You are simply much more likely to find yourself in that position." (23)