Clergy are people too

It’s a weird blog title, I know. Allow me to explain.

For some reason, people seem to think that clergy don’t have feelings. I don’t mean that in a bad way. But we’re often seen as stoic, the ones who keep everything together, a source of strength and safe harbor. I’m not saying these things to make us sound like superheros, but in my experience, this is how we can be seen. But there are times, as recently happened to me, that being clergy is second to being human.

A few weeks ago as I was riding high preparing to leave for KC to attend a World Series game, I got a phone call from an acquaintance. It was weird to hear from him. We are friends, but not “call each other on the phone” friends. He sighed a few times and struggled to start his sentence. “Okay…” he said “this isn’t good news. I’m not calling with good news. Okay….this is hard.” He paused again. “I’m calling on behalf of Sarah to let you know that Ken died.” I was shocked.

Sarah and I have been friends for 18 years. We were freshman year roommates. I don’t know if it was the best match, but we made a go of it. Sarah was from the east coast, beautiful, talented, with long, dancer-like legs. She was confident, determined, dedicated, studious…all the things I wasn’t. We had a lot of laughs and she introduced me to Tori Amos and movies we still quote. After freshman year, she moved off campus with friends. We continued to run in the same circles but both got involved in our own groups. Thanks to social media, we’ve stayed connected. One thing we have grown to adore in one another over the years since graduation is the growing faith each of us have. So when I received the call from our mutual friend, I knew Sarah wanted me called for one reason: she knew I would pray.

So I did.

I didn’t know what else to do.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that they teach in seminary that will prepare you (as a pastor) to get you through the times when someone you love is hurting and in pain. I cried for her. I wanted to scream and shout. I wanted to be angry with God. This was so unfair. Ken was young and relatively healthy. Sarah had taken the risk to open her heart to love and to being loved after being burned. I didn’t understand how this could happen.

It’s one thing when this happens and my main role is as “the pastor.” But when this happens and my role is as “friend” or “family member” I hurt. As a pastor, I’m not benign to feelings and emotions. I’m not some sort of stoic, steadfast, rock-like person that can take such news, shake it off, and go on with my day. I still struggle to understand why Ken was called home at such an early age. I struggle to understand God’s timing as to the logic of calling him home less than a month before he was to be married to my friend. I struggle to understand how a seemingly healthy young man can be dead.

I struggle with all of this for my friend Sarah. I also struggle as I mourn the loss of my high school classmate, Holly. Holly died on Sunday after a long battle with Pancreatic Cancer. She left behind 2 beautiful little girls and a loving husband.

Pardon my language, but what the hell, God?!?

So yes, just because I’m clergy doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with God. Just because I’m clergy doesn’t mean that I don’t get angry with God. Just because I’m clergy doesn’t mean I don’t get pissed off with God. Just because I’m clergy doesn’t mean that I don’t cry, or mourn, or laugh, or dance, or curse, or drink, or whatever….

But, despite all of this, I still trust in God. I know that God will make God’s plans clear to me in God’s time. In the mean time, I pray.

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