I was done before I even started work today. After a couple of weeks of very long days and no days off, I had lost my patience and my filter and I was in need of a break. Somehow the memo didn't get out, though, and the day was a series of unexpected issues and crises. As needs poured in through email, phone messages, and visits, I could not escape or hide as I desperately longed to. My only option was to take a deep breath, seek prayer from trusted friends (as I didn't even feel I had it within me to pray for myself), and push through the work of ministry that is never-ending and never truly complete.
When I look back over the day, I know that I made it through by the grace of God and the support of so many lovely people in my life. The greatest gift, though, is the affirmation, even through my exhaustion, of the blessings of ministry. When I wonder if it all matters, I can remember the stories I got to be a part of today, the hugs I gave and was offered, and the prayers that provided peace and strength.
Fortunately, God must have been guarding my mouth. My filter remained intact and I mainly kept my patience in most public places. I was able to be present and listen, offering support and encouragement to those for whom I care deeply. But the most moving part of my day was at the end when I joined students at an open mic event in observance of World Suicide Prevention Day. They didn't have a filter either and their stories were of crises and deep pain. But there was such beauty in the raw words, such redemption in the tears. There was such affirmation in the responses and such relief in being heard. While it triggered memories and emotion, it provided the relief of release for all that had been bottled up in shame and fear. There weren't any easy answers, but there were stories of survival and tales of hope. There was applause to support their bravery, and courage and hugs to show solidarity.
I'm not naive enough to think that it changed or healed anything. I hope that it did more good than harm. I do believe in the power of sharing our stories. It is story that connects me again and again to the hope I hold for redemption. Stories remind me that we are more alike than we think we are; that we are not alone in our experiences. Though our specific struggles may be unique, none of us are strangers to grief or fear or pain. All of us long for love and acceptance and meaning. There is something sacred about sharing and listening and responding "me too".
The work is not done and my to-do list for tomorrow has grown exponentially. I'm responsible for sharing two public prayers this week when I still feel at a loss for how to pray while still carrying the burdens that weigh me down. But there are new stories that inspire my faith and the reminder that:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:26-28)
May the work continue, and may God make it good.