In my very first parish post-ordination, I was an assistant to the rector, and mostly in charge of youth and outreach. And to prepare for developing new outreach program possibilities, I put a survey in the bulletin. What were people’s interests? The mistake I made was listing a few examples, one of which was something along the lines of a social justice group.
One of the members, an older man who had a reputation for grumpiness, came up to me after the service practically yelling about liberal, radical troublemakers and not at this church and citing some history that I didn’t know about, etc, etc, I was very bad, etc, etc. I was a little stunned by his fierce anger, and that it was directed at me. I said it was a survey and nothing was set in stone, and that his opinion was clear, and thanked him for telling me. I probably didn’t mean it.
He didn’t talk to me for a long time. And so I prayed. Maybe I was naïve to think that I could have a positive relationship with everyone in the parish, but it is still what I hope for and work toward even today. I prayed for peace. I prayed for reconciliation and common ground. I never prayed that he would change, but I prayed that I would, that I would somehow learn the best way to love him. Months went by.
Then one evening in Lent we were having a Wednesday night meeting and meal. I was there early to set up, and was fretting because I didn’t know how to make coffee (still don’t…) and there he was. He said, I know you can’t make coffee. And to his surprise, I hugged him. We didn’t have to change who we were, we just had to focus on love being the most important thing, and being right a distant second.
At the Winter Convocation last weekend, both the presenter and the musician talked about the importance of “managing our adrenaline” or “managing our internal weather”. If we cannot be in control of our emotional life, of our reacting, then we cannot be peacemakers and reconcilers. Again, not making peace to subdue or ignore. Making peace to build healthy community.
In order to be able to manage my own reactions, I pray, I exercise, I try to see the good in people. I often ask myself how someone might have come to the position or situation they are in, as an act of empathy. I also yell and scream at the radio when no one else is around. The point of it all is to do what I have to do to maintain my own equilibrium, my own internal calm, so that when I am called on to be a non-anxious presence, a witness to God’s love, I can at least give it a try.
How do you manage your internal weather? How can it be an intentional, spiritual practice?