Monday, May 23, 2011

Blood Letting

“This geek isn’t going to fit in,” one of the influential leaders said about me before I ever moved in here.

By geek, they mean I’m not athletic and I don’t care about sports. I think it also means that I like to read and enjoy good conversation.

He was right. I didn’t fit in. 

I’m used to that. We ministers really are a strange breed, especially in blue collar areas where one’s worth is measured by how well he can raise livestock or drive a tractor.

My children were criticized for not fitting in well in this community. The implication is that there is something odd about them.

The last preacher’s kids fit in much more easily. Of course one of them narrowly avoided jail by making a deal with the DA to testify against his friend. And the others knew how to have a good time. So of course, they're missed.

But my children didn’t make the cut. Never mind that they’ve made A's in all subjects every semester they’ve been here. Never mind their achievements in art and music, as well as academia. Never mind that my older son has one of the school’s highest ACT scores ever. Never mind that they are articulate, kind, and have never once been in trouble at school. 

The people don’t like my wife either. Like the kids, she’s too quiet, and she makes others feel uncomfortable. I guess it doesn’t help that she’s breathtakingly beautiful. I told one of the leaders that I was baffled by the criticism because my wife has been quite popular in other churches. 

The leader tried to encourage me. “I’m sure she’ll be popular here one day, if she keeps trying.”

I was taken aback at what he implied. Later, after the moment was past and I was by myself I figured out what I wanted to say:  “You don’t understand. It’s not that she isn’t measuring up. It’s THIS CHURCH that isn’t measuring up. It is THIS CHURCH that has failed.  It’s THIS CHURCH that needs to do better.

I can look back and see where I would have done some things differently—that’s a normal part of evaluating. I can even see where there could have been some misunderstanding and I would have appreciated the opportunity to clear things up. 

But I didn't make many wrong moves. I've done this work enough to know that I'm better than average at it.  

And I worked hard to make things better for them. I visited them in the hospital. I comforted them at funerals. I taught and loved their children—I still love their children.

I don’t know how to end this post. I don’t know how I feel. I do know that we’re moving in two weeks and if I could pack up and leave tonight, I would.  


  1. A failed relationship, one that you badly wanted to make work, but could not, hurts, no matter whose fault it is. Sometimes all you've got is knowing you did your best, and it was just not a good match. Yes, I am sure they could have done many things, and you could have done a few things, but mostly, it sounds like it was just not good chemistry.

    Sometimes, I think, doing your best needs to be good enough. That is something I work on accepting myself. Might it be, maybe, that some part of "faith" is connected with believing in (my) yourself, and that ultimately things will be ok?

    I really think this is going to be OK. ~K

  2. K, your comment helped me calm down. Really appreciate your perspective here.

  3. When people treat me poorly, or worse, treat those I care about, poorly, I put up an unintentional buffer. I cease to care about their opinion. If someone had said to me “I’m sure she’ll be popular here one day, if she keeps trying.”, about my fiance, my gut response would have been two colorful words, of course I wouldn't speak them, but I that buffer would go up.

    I'm so glad that you are moving on and I am excited to read about your experiences at the new church.

  4. I so resonate with some of the things you posted here. It took a very long time to fit in to my last pastoral position. Sadly, I did not hear from many people there when I retired.

  5. Wondering why you use word verification when you moderate comments? Seems like an extra hoop to jump through to comment.

  6. Mike, those two little words can mean so much when expressed at the appropriate time! Two weeks from today, I'll be sitting in my new office, with my books on the shelf. Looking forward to writing about better days.

    Bob, it's really a shame how we feel like we just fade away unnoticed after we retire. I appreciate the years of work you put into a job that regularly breaks your heart.

    PS, I changed the settings on the comments.

  7. I totally love K's analogy. Breakups are never easy. I've never been broken up with, I've always done the breakups. You know, the running away...which usually ends with them getting pissed off...

    So time to cater to a new mistress. Just be gentle. If she picks up an ashtray and throws it at you, duck. Then buy her bi-polar self a present. It'll all be good.

    Huh. Was this a comment about you or about my life....?

    Good luck to you. We'll be here when you succeed. Or fail. Either way.

  8. Sistermoon, why would anyone want to break up with you, so of course, you'd have to do the leaving ;).

    Using my powers of perception, let me ask this question: Do you need a new ashtray?