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As we journey through Lent I have been reflecting on my frailties and my weaknesses (because of course this is the season in which to do that, not because I have a penchant for self-pity and self-damnation). I have reflected on some of my choices, relationships which I could have handled better, actions which have caused hurt. It’s not pretty, in fact it’s downright shameful … I sometimes wonder whether my choice of vocation makes it that much harder for me to fail or to make wrong choices because it’s expected that I will not. But as this past season has shown me, I am just as likely to make mistakes as the next person and I feel just as keenly the burden of those mistakes as anyone else.

But as always the God of Grace steps in and offers redemption – words of wisdom and comfort and they came to me through Barbara Brown Taylor in her book Leaving Church - her words have encouraged me.

On receiving her collar:

Image” …being ordained is not about serving God perfectly but about serving God visibly, allowing other people to learn whatever they can from watching you rise and fall. “You probably won’t be much worse than other people” [my seminary rector] said, and “you probably won’t be any better, but you will have to let people look at you. You will have to let them see you as you are.” – Clearly the uniform was designed to facilitate that. My new clothes said “keep an eye on this person” without granting me any control over what others made of what they saw.”

On understanding her role:

“After a very long engagement, it had finally happened. I was a priest in Christ’s Church. Even now, I would prefer a more user friendly word like pastor, but the truth is that an ancient word like priest captures the risk of this vocation as well as any word I know. In my lexicon, at least, a priest is someone willing to stand between a God and a people who are longing for one another’s love, turning back and forth between them with no hope of tending either as well as each deserves. To be a priest is to serve a God who never stops calling people to do more justice and love more mercy and simultaneously to serve people who nine times out of ten are just looking for a safe place to rest. To be a priest is to know that things are not as they should be and yet to care for them the way they are. To be a priest is to suspect that there is always something more urgent that you should be doing, no matter what you are doing, and to make peace with the fact that the work will never get done. To be a priest is to wonder sometimes if you are missing the boat altogether, by deferring pleasure in what God has made until you have fixed it up so that it will please God more. “When I wake up in the morning”, E.B. White once wrote, “I can’t decide whether to enjoy the world or improve the world; that makes it difficult to plan the day.” “

During this period of Lent I pray that you would know rest and redemption, that you would release to God those things which only God can control and that you would know that loving people is messy and risky, but that we should continue to love anyway, even in our imperfect and limited human understanding of what that might entail.

Love, as always…

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