The chapter was titled, “The Making of a Minister”. It was a story I read where a pastor shared about the man who was: “poor before he died, unkempt, obscene, sardonic, arrogant, old, old, lonely, black, and bitter – but one whose soul has never ceased to touch me.” The man whom the pastor visited in his “rotting stuffed chair in that room, from which he seldom stirred the last year of his life.” One man whom, “no one felt moved to visit when he became housebound.” From the beginning he did not like to visit the man. He didn’t want a quick Psalm, he wanted to debate the goodness of God, though a seventy year churchgoer. When the pastor leaves him, he was, “empty in my soul and close to tears, and testy, my own faith seeming most stale, flat, unprofitable at the moment.”
“Naked, he greeted me. Naked, finally, the old man asked my prayers and the devout performance of private worship - and we prayed. Naked, too, demanded Communion. Oh, these were not the conditions I had imagined (three years into his ministry). It is an embarrassing thing, to put bread into the mouth of a naked man: ‘My body, my blood,’ and his belly and groin – he had raised the level of my sacrifice to anguish. I was mortified.”
On and on the story goes. The man dies and is the only parishioner to whom the pastor wept uncontrollably for. “In the terrible, terrible doing of ministry is the minister born. And, curiously, the best teachers of that nascent minister are sometimes the neediest people, foul to touch, unworthy, ungiving, unlovely, yet haughty in demanding – and then miraculously receiving – love. These poor, forever with us, are our riches.”
I slurped the words up like the parched soul that I am. Living in a society heavy laden with the burdens of material wealth, beauty, and self.
So as the story went in Part One:
“I want to go out and meet these people whom God has helped in real and gritty and messy and beautiful ways and write a book about it; a compilation of stories of redemption and grace.”
I want to hear their stories; sit on their sofa’s; meet their kids, their pets; I want to feel their tears on my hands; smell the grace spill from the lips as they recall their journey. I want to walk through the sitting and shedding of grief, no matter how long or messy, with those made in His image. To do this and not be concerned with worldly, cultural, and materialistic matters – whether my shoes match my top, how big my diamond is, what brand my purse is, etc. To do this in and for the lives of other people, people like me, and not give a second thought to whether I have new windows in my home or air conditioning in my car. To take the real and gritty and messy and beautiful stories of the loosed chains, the blind eyes opened, the prisoners freed, the light in dark places. Here. Now. Put those stories into words and package it up to send out to a world starving for God. That. To do that. Knocks all other things off my bucket list.