What Happened to Me, Part 3

It never occurred to me that ministry would engender conflict.  In my youth, I had seen conflict on church-related issues, but there is a vast difference between observing a thing and being in the soup.  The starry-eyed understanding of my formative years laid little stress on potential problems of parochiality being both uninformed and enraptured.  I have come to identify with the thoughts (if not the theology) of many who ditch the church in discouragement. 

There are many reasons for difficulty, and personality plays no small part in the mix.  Problems arise over disagreements (You never hear of a “generation gap” when there’s agreement.).  A great many conflicts are not particularly substantive in nature but have more to do with point of view.  That perspective is, in large part, a function of personality.  We should understand that the personality tends to remain stable over time.  Some changes are made through experience, but the basic leanings of the individual are still there.  So, those who disagree mostly continue to do so.  Compromise can be wise, and it can be wrong. Little fires kindle great matters.  I wish I was wiser and not wronger.

Not everyone has the same tolerance for pain.  Apparently, I’ve made it an art form.  It is not in my nature to give quarter or admit defeat.  For me, this has meant that I keep on trying in hardness and stick by my positions resolutely.  I don’t think I’m always right, but I have that self-protecting bias thing.  As established churches don’t adapt easily, a good fit is found with effort.  As some seed falls on fertile soil and some amid stones, some ministers seem comfortable in their initial climes, but every plant won’t grow everywhere.  At some point, blame doesn’t matter, but there’s enough to go around.  And bad mistakes, I’ve made a few.

Hindsight on my experiences with church problems informs that most of them could have been avoided.  The majority were mountains of mole-hills.  There was no theological basis and little practical consideration on most issues.  In some cases, biblical points offered were bad interpretations of good principles.  As for the greater part, the Bible didn’t enter into the discussions.  They were simply matters of who was going to get their way.  Can I get a witness?

Jesus said it was impossible for offenses not to come.  He didn’t say they might come.  He said it was an impossibility that they not come.  As all the children of Adam, you will face unforeseen difficulties in life.  Some will be your fault, but some will not.  As unavoidable as pot-holes in the road, you will be rattled and driven off-course.  It’s happened to better people than you, and I’m not downing you.  I’m just saying life is trouble.  A wiser man than me said the same thing.

If you are in difficulty, it does not mean you are wrong.  It doesn’t particularly mean you are right, either, but many have been told they were wrong for disagreeing or promoting new ideas.  I’d like to encourage the maverick but on two points.  First, there is no progress without new ideas, and it would be a terrible world if there were no dissent.  Second, maverick-hood is not virtuous in itself.  Because we are different does not mean we are special.  Listen up, young people and those trying to breathe new life into old bones.

We will all answer to God for the deeds of our lives.  This truth extends to words spoken (Take that free speech!).  For these reasons, we approach living thoughtfully and with caution.  There’s a ditch on either side of the road, so we are apt to be wrong in the extremities.  Some things are immutable, but a great many adjustments can be made within the standard deviation.

Even the spiritual life can be chaotic.  God is not changeable, but we are- sometimes drastically so.  You will sail wild and unfamiliar seas on your life’s voyage and may suffer according to the will of God.

While I acknowledge your individuality, I adjure you to exercise it in accordance with God’s plan.  It’s easier said than done, but give it a go.  Your angle may well be needed in our perilous times.  If you suffer for it, you’re in good company.

Sterl
 


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