Opinion: An inconvenient truth
Written by Shernell J. Edney
June 21, 2010
Two weeks ago I lost my job. (What a way to start out this article, right?!) But, it's the truth. "They" - the representatives sent down from the corporate office - called us into the conference room and looked all eleven of us in the face and informed us that the office would only be open for two more weeks.
My first thought was about the two patients that I had previously schedules to visit that day after the meeting. Being a hospice Chaplain, I knew that my recent news of my dismay would not only affect me, but those with whom I had been brought into relationship with during my tenure.
How was I supposed to tell them that in addition to coping with their prognosis, they now needed to welcome new people into their home and reacquaint themselves with an entirely new hospice team? Could another organization take care of them as well as we had?
My stomach was uneasy. Then, as if waiting for its turn at bat, the thoughts of being out of a job for the second time in two years came rushing over me. "Seriously God?!" I thought. "You're SERIOUSLY allowing this to happen AGAIN?!"
In theory, I should've been consoled by the fact that both positions ended due to a lack of funds and shortages in the budget. But in reality, it did very little to stop the dull pain present in my chest. Obviously, God was trying to tell me something. The myriad of things it could be ranged from, "I am God, thus says the Lord," to "My thoughts and ways are higher than your thoughts and ways."
However, the truth is much simpler. It's not one or the other. It's both/and. It's everything that fits in between the two and beyond. The truth was simplistically inconvenient. "It's not about you." Losing my job previously was not about me. The months of borderline depression where I wondered how I could possibly be a minister without a job weren't about me. Finding new employment as a hospice chaplain wasn't about me.
The truth is that in the midst of everything there was God. The truth is that now, as I write this, God still has a working purpose and plan. The truth will be revealed that the days and nights I spend planning my future in order to avoid such situations is no match for the future God already has planned for me. But as wonderful as that sounds, it's often an inconvenience.
As pastors, preachers, lay ministers and congregants we often spend our time fundraising, planning and organizing just to feel like we've accomplished something. But how often do we see our perceived failure at these tasks as part of God's plan for our success? Can we truly allow ourselves to not just see, but also feel, the hand of God moving in the valley of the shadow of death?
In his popular documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth", Al Gore says, "It takes time to connect the dots. I know that. But I also know that there can be a day of reckoning when you wish you had connected the dots more quickly." The same quote can be applied to us in the body of Christ. It's not easy to pick up the cross and follow willingly when there's no way to foretell what that journey will look like. But, there will be a time when if we wait too long we will wish that we had done it much sooner.
The inconvenient truth is that a life solidified by saying yes to God is often accompanied by a countless amount of no's. The truth is also that all those no's equal God's yes in return for wanting the best for us. It's amazing how some of the things that should bring us the most comfort, bring us the most distress.
The thought of a God that knows what we need before we need it should sustain us. But, we still find our bodies looking for new ways to express and release the great amounts of stress we ingest. The embodiment of a God who framed the whole world should cause us to have the easiest job in all of creation. Yet, we have extreme rates of clergy turnover and suicide. There's something about the eternal fight between our flesh and our spirit, the tangible and the intangible that won't let us rest.
The truth is inconvenient when sometimes all we want to know is "why?" and "what's next?" But, no matter how hard to accept, we serve a God who truly knows and sees all. We are ordained by a God who loves us too much to allow us to completely fall from grace. We serve an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, STILL-SPEAKING God! And no matter how inconvenient it may be, that's the truth.
Edney is currently working toward ordination in the Southern Conference of the UCC. She received her M.Div. degree from Virginia Union University in Richmond and has a background in counseling, youth services, community outreach and corporate communications.