Lately, a few of us have been wondering to ourselves and out loud just what exactly it is that we're doing here. What is it to be a pastor? Why is it that we're on this grand four-year adventure to become pastors? We all have different answers to these questions and most of them are just more questions, frankly.
One of our internship goals is supposed to be to develop our pastoral identity. I was trying to explain to my mom what that even means, and struggled. Clearly I'm not checking off many boxes in this category at the moment.
And though many of us are interns right now, what that looks like is so varied. We fall in different places along many spectra -- between overwork and boredom, between excitement and fear, between assurance and doubt.
We communicate with one another constantly, trying to figure out if what we're experiencing is "normal" or if it's unreasonable, or if it's just us that's the problem. This one of the only ways we're surviving, I think--each other.
And that's when it hits me.
Someone has to be around to carry our deepest, most complicated stuff with us. Pastors do so many things, (that's something we're all learning on this internship adventure) and a lot of them are unremarkable -- leading meetings, copyediting bulletins, updating the Facebook page, etc. But a pastor can sit beside you and listen to that which you can never tell another living thing, and carry it in their heart in a way you cannot carry it on your own.
And certainly ordination doesn't make that possible. We are reminded that ordination does not give us "magic fingers" for the eucharist, and so it most likely does not give us magic listening ears or carrying hearts. But we who are here on this journey to discover what it is to be "pastor" are developing such things. Many of us who are on this journey are already those who carry the sufferings of others on our own hearts in a way that feels abnormal.
In the wake of the ineffably tragic massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School last week, many Americans -- not just pastors -- are finding themselves deeply, gut-wrenchingly, abnormally troubled.
Are you? Do you well up with tears every time you see or hear anything related to the deaths of these children? I have found myself grieving in a way that I didn't even know I was capable of. I had to pull over my car when NPR reported on Monday the first funerals -- two little boys, one of whom has a twin sister who survived the tragedy. Tears are forming in my eyes now, just to type this.
Why is this? What is it that has connected us to these people -- people we would not otherwise have ever known -- so deeply that we are weeping with them across the nation?
And all weekend I thought about the pastors in and around Newtown who are caring for their congregations, their own families, their own selves -- where do they find those words, that strength? I wrote a letter to the Monsignor in Newtown -- ten of the children killed were from his parish -- and to the ELCA pastors closest to Newtown. It was the only thing I could think of that I could do, from here, to let those incredible humans know that the work they are doing is invaluable, and that we are all carrying them as best we can.
There aren't words for these feelings -- all evidence to the contrary, in that I've just written a bunch of words. But these words are just words about how there aren't words. And where words fail, somehow there is something else that finds a way to communicate. There is holy, human spirit at work here. Making space for that spirit is, I suppose, why we do what we do.
There's a mountain here before me
And I'm gonna climb it with strength not my own
[God's] gonna meet me where the mountain beats me
And carry me through