Sometimes when I attend ministry related workshops, I end up thinking more about home and family than I do about the local church. You see, right now, I am in a pretty intense season of parenting. Bill and I have one adult child who is out of the house and finding her own way in life (which is a joy and being her parent is very different than it used to be). Our next “kid” is 20 and trying to move out and figure out work and life as an independent young adult. We worry and try to coach and yet this young adult still lives at home so there are still family expectations and parenting is weird right now. Then we have a 9th grader, two 7th graders, a 6th grader, and a 5th grader. 5 kids ages 11-15, all developmentally trying to figure out who they are, their purpose in life, and how they fit into this family and the world we live in. We have big emotions, big hormones, and big opinions. Like I said, intense.
So as I listened to Rev. Dr. Tod Bolsinger share about resilient leadership (a conversation aimed toward pastors of local churches and based on his book Tempered Resilience), I kept thinking about the concepts he spoke of within the leadership I have in my family. He talked about expecting sabotage after leading through change. He talked about how stress and conflict shape a leader. He talked about how people always grumble and complain during seasons of change, even after they’ve just had amazing experiences and seen love and care in action.
Yep, sounds like home right now.
You see, while Bill is a dedicated and engaged dad, I am still the primary parent. This works well for us because of my current ministry work in a denominational office that allows me to work from home (most of the time) and design my work flow so that my afternoons, evenings, and weekends are (mostly) open to be present for my kids. I do a LOT of driving around to and from activities right now. I also do a lot of snack distribution. Middle schoolers are always hungry! And I do a lot of listening and guiding and probably too much telling what to do.
What really struck me about the workshop today was the idea that resilience comes from knowing whose you are, who you are, and who you are called to be. In the midst of middle school drama, trauma responses and healing (3 of my 7 kids joined our family through the foster care system), the uniqueness of a large family, and the chaos of a large family, we need to be resilient. I need to be resilient. My marriage needs to be resilient. The kids need to be resilient.
It occurred to me that if I can remember whose I am (I am a beloved child of God), who I am (wife, mother, pastor), and who I am called to be (to live a life worthy of my calling), then I will be ok. When I can keep those 3 things as a solid foundation under me and as a launching point for decisions, I will be ok. It won’t always be easy, there will be periods of time I am being forged by fire, yet I will be ok.
Even as I remember that, I also remember that 11-15 year olds, and young adults trying to find their way in the world, they are developmentally in seasons where they are trying to understand who they are and who they are called to be. Add in for 3 of my kids the trauma of having “changed families” multiple times, having been moved from their family of origin into our family, and all the wrestling that comes from those life circumstances, knowing whose you are and who you are is even harder. And without that solid foundation, change seems insurmountable and too hard and even impossible. And even small change will involve immense amounts of grumbling and complaining and yes, even self-sabotage.
As I think about my family and the season of life we are in, I can’t help thinking about the local church again, and the season the Church is in. Culture is changing dramatically. A pandemic is waning, but not quite over, and forever altered the landscape of what we knew as “church.” Add in denominational conflict (I am United Methodist), and I understand so much more clearly. As individuals, we are wrestling with the big questions: whose am I, who am I, who am I called to be? As local churches we are wrestling with the same questions: whose are we, who are we, who are we called to be?
I’m currently in awe of God and angry and God and skeptical of God. I’m in awe because I can see what this season of life is teaching me and how it is forming me as a person and as a leader. And I am grateful. I’m angry because I’m not sure I want these lessons and the fire and the heartache and the stress. And I can see how God can use it all. I’m skeptical because I’m not sure I want whatever may come next because of the way I am being shaped and formed and strengthened now. And I understand that my uniqueness will be needed.
For now, I will do my very best to stay fully present in this season of my life. I will hold onto whose I am (I am a beloved child of God), who I am (wife, mother, pastor), and who I am called to be (to live a life worthy of my calling). I will be ok. I will be strengthened. I will be formed and shaped. And I will lead my family, walking with them as they come to understand whose they are, who they are, and who they are called to be.
God is with us and we will be ok.
God is with you too. You are a beloved child of God. You are loved and cherished. You have purpose in this world. Hold on to those and even through the fire, you can be ok too.