In this week’s episode of the Three Minute Ministry Mentor, I share a story from my first call in ministry. I have preached about this moment when I missed the point, thinking the call was for someone else. In particular it was an experience when I missed what was at stake when someone called for a pastor. I was looking for someone else, but the phone call came for me. Fortunately that failure to see what was obvious led to other learning when I began to see my mistake.
My sermon “Wisdom at the Crossroads” is published in This is What a Preacher Looks Like. You can watch the episode here to get the story, but here’s the bottom line: someone called for a pastor, and I didn’t get that it was me. Instead I looked for our senior pastor, missing how I could have responded to the urgency of the moment.
It was a beginner mistake. And although I felt embarrassed and chagrinned when I realized my missteps, it was also a powerful growing moment. Like our conversation recently in Episode 10 about failing creatively, this was a big failure, but my recovery gave me some lasting changes. And my colleagues took time to process with me what happened and included me in leading the parishioner’s funeral service.
One of the big take-aways for me in this misunderstanding and recovery, was a permanent jolt to my self-understanding as a pastor. As I regained my footing, I was able to do some creative and compassionate pastoral work with Julie and with the community as a whole. The other big learning came when I saw what kind of deep listening was needed in the midst of such a shocking loss. I took a new risk in the way I reached out to support Julie in the year that followed her spouse’s death.
So the stakes were high. I stumbled. And yet with the help of a few others and a willingness on my part to start again, I re-engaged and recovered. Julie struggled with her loss of course, but she never lost the grace of being herself and letting me into her life in the midst her doubts and anger. She taught me a great deal about what was at stake in a loss so profound. I remain grateful to this day.