I found out some terribly sad news about one of the members of my last church. I was at work on break when I spoke to the present minister on the phone who told me what had happened. This person had been one of my favorites (we’re not supposed to have them, but c’mon…”)
I got off the phone, put my head in my hands, and tried to hide my crying, which I don’t do well. My coworker, Vilma, came to sit next to me and put her arm around my shoulders. I’m beginning to understand that tears catch up with us at break time and without knowing details we comfort each other.
Back to the tragedy. These are moments that threaten to tear me in two.
On the one hand, I wish I had never left the ministry. Perhaps I could have continued to co-exist with the religious beliefs that I no longer held so I could stay in place to help and coordinate the community of helpers. I want to be there with the people to offer words of comfort and support. I liked doing that work. Except near the end when I was having anxiety attacks.
On the other hand, I wish I had never gone into ministry in the first place. I mean, to be invested in so many people’s lives… to wake up wondering whose heart would be wrecked that day… to keep my phone on and within reach in case of emergency even during vacations. And what did I accomplish in that profession other than exhaustion? I could have done anything else and simply been a supportive friend to people, like Vilma was being for me.
I’m tired, not just from the work I do now but from the efforts I expended for three and a half decades. And I’m sad because a young friend has died.
I’m spending the last third of my life second-guessing the first two-thirds of it. I left the ministry nearly five years ago. I have a good life with music, motorcycles trips, good food, and a lovely wife. But I have so many unresolved issues: mistakes made, keeping up with my old friends, and carving out a profession/purpose/direction.
Some things don’t get answered or resolved, I suppose. And some of life is spent crying about our friends or comforting them.