Reflections of a poet, preacher, and contemplative activist

A Lesson in Letting Go

Some days, even after thirty-some years of active parish ministry, I simply don’t feel that well suited to being a pastor.

A disappointment tips the scale, and I am gripped by a growing sense of discouragement.

A loss is felt – either because people move away, because of a death, or simply as a result of the shifting landscape of peoples’ spiritual lives or family dynamics – and I grieve all over again for the way these losses tear at the fabric of community.

Life is difficult. I get it. I am a pastor, and I am well accustomed with the challenges and struggles people experience – not only those within my pastoral charge (as we Methodists refer to our flocks), but those well beyond it, in the larger community and among the circles of relationship of those I know. Yet this doesn’t lessen the impact of disappointment or loss.

“The world is my parish,” John Wesley once said. Pastors aren’t appointed to churches to be mere chaplains. We are sent among God’s people to equip them to be ministers in the world. Pastors are like personal trainers, helping others get in spiritual shape so that they can live as followers of Christ for the sake of the world. Trouble is, too often people are content to purchase a bargain gym membership and then fail to show up and work out! The church atrophies. Leadership dries up. People walk away.

I still believe that God wants to bless the whole world, no exceptions! And so I get up each morning knowing that the work is not going to be easy. My hope and desire is that my efforts for the sake of God’s realm on earth will bear fruit, but I am also realizing that I don’t control the results of anything. Not really.

I am learning to turn my work over to the Spirit of God who moves about freely in the world without regard to human borders or divisions. I am learning to release the imperfect work of my hands, my heart, my mind and my spirit, to the one wise God who is able to use even me to create a more just and compassionate world.

(c) 2014 Mark Lloyd Richardson

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  1. I really appreciate the true spirituality of heart and humility that shine through your writing. It is not so common – in churches, or elsewhere. -)

  2. Dianne Lynn

    This so touches my heart strings. As a pastor’s spouse going from church to church for so many years (ah, those itinerant Methodists), I experienced times like you so lovingly expressed in this beautiful, poignant writing! I give thanks for you and Dal and cheer on your spiritual journeys!

    • It’s always wonderful to hear from you, Dianne. I know you understand from personal experience. It is a blessing to have you among our circle of friends. Grace to you and Jim, Mark

  3. My heart goes out to you Rev Mark, because your kind, open, and deeply caring heart obviously feels so much, and sees so much that could be better. Please know your compassionate shining heart makes a big difference. Your writings and other works ripple out beautifully, and likely much farther than you realize.
    A grateful member of your blog’s ‘pastoral charge’

  4. Thanks so much, Gina. It’s nice to know I have a ‘pastoral charge’ out there beyond some of the mundane disappointments of daily ministry. You are a blessing. Mark

  5. It’s like the Hokey Pokey……We put our whole self in, then we have to take our whole self out, and let God shake it all about. So easy to say, so hard to do.
    Many years ago I was struggling with several tragic situations that had me seriously considering buying one of those tacky bumper stickers that translate, “Manure Happens.” As I drove down my country road, I was harassing God, ” God, where are you? I’m up to my neck in manure here.” Just then I noticed a huge ripe cow patty beside the road, completely covered with beautiful golden Monarch butterflies. I pulled over to the side of the road, laughing and crying at the same time. What a perfect symbol of the grace for transformation that can come in the “fertilizer” in our lives. A week later a friend gave me a bumper sticker that said, “Grace Happens.”

    I’m delighted to discover your blog through our mutual blogging friend Gina.

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