Wednesday, November 20, 2013

An Honest Assessment

No lessons or lectures or clever turns of phrase this evening. It's been a rough day. I've been off for a few weeks now, ever since we got back from my college reunion. That was sort of the end point of a very busy six months, during which I'd been pretty disciplined and focused. The weeks since have been a mess.

When I have smaller projects to do, I'm pretty good about setting schedules and making progress. In their absence, I'm left with the big project. I created a Facebook page for our little experiment here in Middletown, which makes it look like there's "stuff" going on when there isn't - at least not in the traditional understanding of "stuff."

There's a lot happening. We're becoming really good friends with some of the people who live right around us. That is awesome. It's what we came here to do. There's also a hodgepodge of local organizations and causes I've been able to be involved with on some level - people and groups doing good things for our town.

Still there's been little cohesion. I tend to look at things from the big picture. Our place in the world is to participate in the good God is doing around us - to live into "the Kingdom" - this crazy new way of living that Jesus introduced and that continues to emerge. I want to live a lifestyle that exemplifies some of the core foundations of that Kingdom - the dignity and value of all people for their own sake; radical love, compassion, and forgiveness; reconciliation and peace-building. I really do believe we have to get along with one another - not because we really need to do it, although we do, but because the whole of eternity is us, all of us, living together in love. It's an eternity I think we need to practice now.

That beings said, some things are really missing from my life.

I haven't had friends - real, deep, hang out on a regular basis and completely relax around friends - in a long time. I have a lot of people I know pretty well, people I like and whose company I enjoy - good neighbors who are becoming friends more and more each day - but it's difficult to move beyond the superficial to the real in those relationships and I'm terrible at it to begin with. I never know quite how to read a friendship and say what's appropriate at the right times - I also (despite my plethora of pronouncements and opinions) have a pretty dim view of myself as a person. I need affirmation more often than you'd expect and I just don't often feel I have much to offer in terms of friendship that people really want.

I am not all that down on my life. I really believe in why we're here in Middletown. I love my family and I enjoy most of every day. Yes, I am an extreme introvert and I could probably get along just fine holed up in the house all day every day scouring the internet for more and more information (random and otherwise). Technically, I could live a rather contented life that way.

The problem is that Kingdom impulse again. I do have this innate belief that life is more than just contentment, more than just getting by. I firmly believe we're meant for something. Life has purpose.

I've been recognizing lately (and especially today) that all the proper intellectual commitments in the world mean nothing if they're not being lived out amongst friends. It is in the cauldron of relationships that life happens - in the midst of our messiness and insecurities and awkwardness and inadequacies that we really do live out whatever it is we believe.

I am a pastor a minister and so "ministry" is sort of what I'm supposed to do. There are a lot of perspectives on what that means, but usually it entails doing some series of actions for a specific purpose - preaching or praying or serving or singing (usually among friends, but directed towards strangers) for the purpose of making more Christians.

I'll be honest. I'm not really in the mood to talk about God or life with people I'm not friends with. By that I mean the longer I live and the more I think about it, I'm tired of talking about important things with people I barely know. When that happens, the things we know, the opinions we form, the subjects of our conversations become the central element of the relationship, rather than the relationship itself. The way we view and care for one another should be paramount. Watching out for each other, welcoming each other, supporting each other despite our failures and disagreements - that should be the baseline, bedrock foundation of not just relationships, but life itself.

To me that's "ministry." It's really just life: treating the people around you like family. It means making sure your friends know they're your friends, no matter how crazy they turn out to be (and hoping that commitment works both ways).

So, for those who live near me - those people in my life on an almost daily basis - if you're still reading this far into the post, take this as an invitation to be as real as you want to be (or even more real than that). I need people in my life to talk about big things with - life and love and pain and fear and God and depression and whatever - and I'm not always the best at starting conversations.

I'd love to have regular (not necessarily scheduled) time to sit down and talk with people who want to talk about real things, important things. I need that to stay sane. I really do.

I also need people who like playing RISK or Trivial Pursuit or all those other games that take hours to play and normal people despise. And people who are equally excited about the World Cup or the Winter Olympics or any of the other odd sports I happen to like. And just for the record, those don't all have to be the same people.

Above all I need people who will prioritize relationship - see me as me and not a conglomeration of my actions, thoughts, and ideas. I'll do my absolute best to do the same for you.


Todd Erickson said...

Yup. Let me know when you figure that out.

Donnie M said...

Ryan, this is an amazing compilation of ones challenges, more over a genuine appeal to the core of what Christ calls us to be. Your honesty is refreshing. The sum of all the advancements I have made in live are, in retrospect, the risks I've been willing to take. I think can be said of things personal and professional. I have, in the short time I was around you, recognized you to be exceptionally bright and, this blog adds a new perspective to my observation. You are sensitive and honest, which are good qualities. Great blog.