I was tidying my study today, and as I hung some artwork up, I noticed a scrap of paper flailing under the whiteboard. It was my exit strategy from the job I am, a list of the things that needed to be achieved before I could move on.
Without wanting to sound arrogant, they are all done. I have continuities in place, I have funding there, I have trained people. I have done what I set out to do. I have grown an indigenous lead church in a challenging estate. I have set up a relational project so in four years the church could know the names of every teenager in the estate (mental note to self, should have taught people how to learn names). I have seen people touched by God’s spirit, healed in body and in soul.
This is what I came into this line of work for. I am living the dream.
But it doesn’t feel like living the dream. It feels like hard, costly work. I started taking medication today for what might be a work induced stomach ulcer. Some might put it down to my drivenness, and they may be right: or it might be the gradual needling of every passive aggressive email, every rumour, every miscommunication, every piece of graffiti rubbed out, every chair moved.
I am not alone in this. I know a bunch of people in our late thirties, all of us doing what is in our God given DNA to do, and finding it hellish.
And so I wonder, are we merely a bunch of people who are relentless in our pursuit of perfection, shy of pain and unable to take the heat? Its possible. We grew up in the age of comfort, things were always getting better around us.
Or are we simply unprepared? The people on the stages who told us we are a chosen generation, that we would do amazing things for God forgot to mention that it would be hard work.
They forgot to mention, and we neglected to read, that the saints that we celebrate today, had more days like this than we care to remember. Mother Teresa’s calling brought on a dark night of the soul that would last for years. She was not alone.
I guess the reality is that seeing the kingdom come is hard. It remains as it ever was a matter of death and resurrection. Every day we pick up the cross and choose to die to self, to die even to what we believed living the dream might feel like. And then we are raised with him who promises that one day the hard bit will all end, and surrounded by those who have walked this way too, we will know no more crying or pain or tears.