In my grandparents’ church pastors didn’t stay long. One after another (I recall 3 in a row) had affairs with either the secretary or choir director or deacon’s wife and ran off. But I used to think about my grandfather and what the pastor might think of him – if the pastors weren’t such scallywags themselves.
After all, my grandfather kept breaking all the rules! Did the pastors know and not care? Was he just really crafty and good at hiding his heathen ways? As a kid I wondered these things.
As a pastor I would have loved having my Papa as a community member, especially if he didn’t keep secrets about his lifestyle choices. He showed up as regular as clockwork every week for not only worship but the life of the church. He fixed things that broke; he painted walls that needed painting; he shoveled snow and cut the grass at the church. He never missed his Monday night church dartball games. As a young man he played church softball. He studied his Sunday School lesson every week. He got baptized when he was in his fifties, overcoming a lifelong water phobia to do so and when he began flailing during the baptism and almost drowned himself and the pastor – who himself got a second chance at a full immersion experience that morning – he never complained about the trauma or fussed about the pastor’s baptizing limitations. He took me to Sunday School when I was in town and talked to me about the lesson afterward. He visited the sick and tolerated my grandmother’s unwillingness to go to church unless she had a stunning outfit with all the accessories a stylish woman required. He was a good man; he crossed a lot of lines. He’s my kind of Christian.
My Papa has influenced my ideas about what it means to be a member of a church community. Peterson said this, “Getting to know these men and women as participants in God’s story, not as problems that we can fix. Letting them be themselves. Not trying to force them into the story.” (p.123 The Pastor) I quite like that. I don’t know why we have a tendency to monitor and critique other people’s behavior, but I have discovered that when we are inspired by a new way of seeing – one that asks us to love the unlovely, accepting unlovely as part and parcel of the human condition – in ourselves and others – that’s pretty much a full time job right there!