Dear Pastor, leader, dear teacher, dear friend:
Do you remember how I used to call you the “Man of God?” I grew up believing that you were better than us because you spent hours and hours in study and prayer and reflection on The Things of God. You were my example in all things, the zenith of spirituality. I thought that you spoke for God and your answers were more important than my questions. I thought that pastors or leaders had to have their homes completely in order, be too holy for the rest of the stuff we all dealt with today. I revered your marriage and analyzed your parenting, holding you to impossible standards. Somehow, I thought – maybe because you taught me this, long ago, who remembers anymore? – that you were the Shepherd and I was the smelly, dumb, yet beloved sheep.
Then the years began to unfold and one by one by one, those ideas I had about you? All dismantled. At first it hurt. You can understand why that is, maybe, to someone like me, why it was hard on me when you tumbled off of the pedestal I lovingly kept propped up for so many years. I’m pretty embarrassed that I cried as hard as I did, that I judged you as harshly as I did, for your tragic displays of our shared humanity, because weren’t you supposed to be better than me, better than us all?
At first, I was disillusioned.
Now? I’m grateful to be so.
My friend, I no longer expect you to have it all together, to maintain a facade of performance and perfectionism that will eventually cripple you, your family and your followers. It’s okay that you’re a person.
I no longer look for you to deliver the message from the mountaintop for me. I like to be there myself, with the wind and the Holy Spirit in my hair. I’ve also found God in the deepest valleys, driest deserts, and do you remember? I found you there, too. Hail fellow, well met.
Church doesn’t mean sitting in a pew anymore, listening to you talk. It’s all of us, glory to God, a mismatched and gorgeous bride and something more besides, something holy in the living life together, the breaking of bread, pouring of wine, family, in the people of God gathered together then sent out.
It’s nice to be partners in this thing, now, isn’t it?
I no longer have expectations on you that I do not have on myself. We are all learning and growing, we are all travellers on a journey.
We are all engaged in holy work – the carpenter, the mama, the business person, the dad, the writer, the programmer – and we’re all anointed for our life, chosen. I value the work you do and I’m thankful for it. I’m just also glad for godly daycare providers, politicians, parents, labourers, advocates, missionaries, hockey players and homeless. We are all anointed, we are all called and every part of this body is vital.
I no longer look to you as my shepherd. What a relief to you, I imagine! No, I look to Jesus as my Shepherd.
And this is freedom.
For both of us, do you see?
It’s freedom for the disillusioned because now we get to enjoy the richness of relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit without any intermediary or filter. I get to follow Jesus, not you. I get to be part of community that is rich and full. This flattened hierarchy thing that freaks so many people out? It’s actually pretty awesome.
This disillusionment pushed me away from revering you or heroes of the faith or mystics or doctrine purveyors or models or churches. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m still wanting to learn from all of you. But it drove me to the true example, the true Shepherd, the true Father. In this new world, I can embrace you as a true man – or woman – after God’s own heart, flawed, moving forward as we all are towards our true renewed selves with open hearts to God.
Now, when I hear of you falling or a few skeletons in your closet, my heart is free to break for you and your own need for our Abba. I’m no hypocrite and my turn may be coming. I can make my response this time all about you, to love you, to be there for you, no judgements, only grace and second chances – imagine that.
As disillusionment spreads – and clearly, it is spreading – I wonder if it spells freedom for you.
If we were all disabused of our false notions regarding perfect leadership, you would be released from unrealistic pressure or expectations. We could see your gifts and callings as a blessing to be used in community instead of as an isolating boundary of “The Holy and The Rest of Us.”
You would be free to receive, too. We would come alongside one another, looking to Christ alone as the author and perfecter of our faith. And when you struggle or stumble, you could be honest about it because who among us could ever throw the first stone at your precious face? We would no longer be threatened by the fact that you also have questions and struggles. In fact, we could be a safe place for you to work through your thoughts.
We could welcome you, the “Man of God”, to the People of God.
Blessings on you, my brother, my sister, my friend. And thank you for all that you do, seen and unseen.