I am writing this from my New Testament class on the Pauline epistles. I’m very tired…beat down is more of the word for it. Although I have not shared a great deal of this on my blog, the last six months have been extremely difficult. On June 22, my wife had her colon removed…all of it. She has been struggling with Ulcerative Colitis for over four years and finally reached her pinnacle in her struggle. After a week stay in the hosptital, she was re-hospitalized for infection. She was finally able to return to work on the Tuesday after Labor Day. On February 1st, she has a second surgery that reversed her “ostomy.” Since that date, she has been hospitalized four times in three different hospitals. I am physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted. Specifically, in the past two weeks, my spirit has struggled. I have been reminded that the hardest lessons that we learn are often through pain.
I am not a perfect man. If you think your pastor is, then look again. The same goes for seminary students. I do not have all the answers. As of matter of fact, I have more questions and I tend to be very suspicious of anyone who thinks that they do have all the answers. I have had to admit to some mistakes that I have made in the past year and a half. Last night, I had a “talk” with my father-in-law about finances. It was more of him talking to me than me talking and, with all due respect to my father-in-law, I was left defending myself, decisions I have made, and some of my theological positions that he does not agree with. It is very hard to argue with a fundamentalist.
My father-in-law has some very legitimate concerns with our position. We are struggling financially. As of right now, I have a COBRA payment and rent due on April 1 and I do not know how I am going to pay for it. (This is not a commercial for money.) As I said, I know that I have made mistakes. I am not perfect. I made the best decisions that I knew how to make at the time that I made them. I stepped out on faith to go to seminary and I accepted loan money to do it. I have put myself in a very precarious financial situation that is not getting better. I know that I have to deal with it.
On my drive home from Massillon to Ashland, about an hour, I did not listen to music. I talked out loud to myself, vented a bit, cried a bit, and prayed a bit. To try and balance the grace of God with your own failures is exhausting. I cannot account for the grace of God and I cannot look back and second guess many decisions because I know I made them with as much knowledge and wisdom as I had at that time.
I am now faced with many decisions. The one decision that I have made is that I do need financial accountability. I need to do or redo my budget. It is time for a realtiy check, even a gut check. While I admit that I need financial help, I am not convinced that my father-in-law is the person to give me that help. I will admit that he is probably the best person I know at managing money. However, and to be upfront, I felt very judged and condemned last night. My calling was called into question, whether intentially or not. In other words, maybe I shouldn’t have gone to seminary when I did. Maybe I’m not ready to be a pastor yet (I will admit this), and…guess what?…I have a temper. I struggle. Maybe this means that I should not be a pastor.
I am human. I hurt. I cry. I love. I have been loved. I have hated and I am probably hated by someone. I make money. I spend money. I probably do not spend money on what I should. Maybe I sinned when I bought that copy of HM magazine the other day. Maybe. But I’m human.
Whether or not it was anyone’s intention or not, I feel very judged. Last night, my calling was called into question. My position as a singer in a praise and worship group was called into question. (What this had to do with my financial position, I do not know.)
So which is worse? Being judged or being judged by someone you love?
Growing up, I was made fun of. I was an awkward kid, and did not really come into my own until my sophmore or junior year in high school where I hid and expressed my teen angst in music. I sat under judgement from fundamentalists who did not like my music, my long(er) hair, my earing, or my attitude. It was this judgement that held me back from fully embracing Christ until I was in college and was in a place that I could close the door on judgement on open the door to grace. Legalism is truly a suffocating belief. I could have let it snuff out my hope, but I did not. Since I have become a Christian, for the past thirteen years of my life, there have been moments that I have felt judged by my mother, my stepfather, my church, and even some of my friends. Unfortunately, I have also judged others. I am so incredibly sorry for this. I was reminded last night how it felt.
So where do I go from here? Financial accountablity is a must, but I do not think it will come from someone who sits in judgement over me. As I wrote before, I love my father-in-law. He is a very intelligent and wise man. However, I am wounded by the Spirit, shot down a bit in my pride and reminded of whose I am and of my calling. I really do not be kicked when I am down, even it is in the context of trying to help me. I do not need my calling being called into question and really do not need to be having ludicrous thelogical debates regarding music.
I have learned the hard way before that just because someone loves you, that does not give them the right to judge you or hurt you.
Even if you love them.