Today was the first day of orientation for seminary - lots of beginnings and meeting new people and neat professors/VP fellas. In so many ways this has been the point I’d looked forward to so many years ago when I graduated high school.
I remember dreaming about becoming a pastor while cleaning the offices of the church my family went to, almost longing for the day to come when I could start seminary. Thinking I could make a case for them to let me in early without a bachelor’s degree (young and dumb). It was an exciting day, having those thoughts run through my brain from years ago.
But it was a sobering day.
As my wife and I got home, we went to check our mailbox. One of the cooks from my two-month table-waiting job who lives in our complex was there. I asked how things were going there… He stuttered and stumbled and choked on his words to say the chief killed himself on Monday.
I know that guy. I knew that guy. He smiled and helped me a ton… My fumbling, ignorant, naivety he forgave and would say, “Don’t worry about it, it happens,” with a compassionate smile. I can’t tell you how many times in those two months I felt forgiveness and kindness from that in the kitchen or how often I thought I could do my job confidently because there was a guy willing to be forgiving of my waitering faults.
All day long I heard about the weighty beauty of the studies to come. All night long I’ll think of the reality of death and absolute necessity the kindness of the gospel is for broken people. “A bruised reed he will not break and smoldering flax he will not quench.” “Come to me all who are heavy laden, for my burden is light and my yoke is easy.” “All things work together for the good of those who are called according to his purposes…”
This is why we do ministry. To minister - shepherd and serve - those who are destitute and afflicted, storm tossed and heavy laden, shattered and broken, depressed and despairing, to love those only Christ in us could love, to have compassion on the wounded and destitute.
This is what we proclaim: certain hope in the salvation of Jesus and the coming redemption of our frailties, the perfect man in the place of our imperfections, the grace of God and the mercy of our Lord.
This is a sadly-sobering day.