One of my greatest joys over the last few years was playing in the Signature Brass Quintet, of which I am one of two original members. We've played some wonderful music, some fun venues, and I was enjoying the chance to hang out with the guys on a regular basis. It was a nice break from the normal routine of life in ministry, and it gave voice to a part of my that had disappeared after college. All in all, it was, and was still becoming, an important piece of my life.
Not any more.
Last week I got a phone call from one of the other players. Essentially, his message was:
a) we think this group can be great
b)but not with you, so
c) you're out, and we're looking for a new trumpet player.
I give Manny credit - he did his best to break the news with grace and dignity, but let's be honest - there's no way to say "we're all better than you so you're out" without it stinging just a bit.
I'm not naturally an angry person. But I admit it. This one hurt quite a bit.
And not just because they took away something so important to me, and not just because it was all a bit unfair, the way they all made this decision without even consulting me.
It's more because the musicality isn't the issue. That's the smokescreen that covers a much deeper problem. Namely, that one of the other players (who shall remain nameless) is a ninny.
Yep, I just said that. A ninny.
It really came down to this: that particular player pulled a stunt that was unethical and unfair, and then criticized the rest of us when we didn't respond like he thought we should. So I pointed out his unethical behavior. At which point he threw a hissy fit and emotionally blackmailed the other guys into kicking me out.
It's all so junior-high-playgroundesque.
So there's the grief piece, in losing something that was a huge part of my life, an activity that brought me great joy and satisfaction. And then there's the outrage piece, at the injustice of it all, of essentially being bullied by a grown man unable to deal with his own issues.*
Like I said, I'm not naturally an angry person. But it's been an angry week for me. It doesn't help that pastors aren't really supposed to get angry, and that we're all expected to be examples of peace and forgiveness. That we're not supposed to maintain vengeful thoughts in the deep recesses of our brains. But there they are. Yes, I know forgiveness will come with time, and no, I'm not going to act on those vengeful thoughts. But if it helps you to know that pastors sometimes get angry and dream about punching other people in the face, there you go.
That's my story.
But last week I also sat with a friend who told me they had just signed the papers to officially end their marriage, and it was freeing but it was also the most painful day of their life. And then I sat with another friend whose marriage has gone frigid and dark and is probably over. And then another friend erupted in a message to me, sharing the pain of all the ways Christians have betrayed and hurt them over the decades. And I'm hurting for our church, as we've lost six more families over the last few weeks.
And this morning I learned that Heidi slipped away into eternity in the night, and I can only imagine Joe's grief. They fought for so long, and even a week ago thought they might defeat this ugly thing called cancer, but then it hit with a vengeance and there was nothing to be done. We rejoice, knowing that Heidi is now in the arms of God, that her life was redeemed long ago by Jesus, and that at the resurrection she and Joe will see each other once again. But today, it seems, is a day of grief.
I asked Karina this morning, "when does all this pain stop?" and she replied (much too quickly, I think) "it never does." And that's the truth. There are many wonderful, glorious, delightful moments in life. But the pain is always there, just the same.
Which is why I'm thankful to know and be known by a God who promises justice for wrongs done, who promises healing for broken hearts, who promises love to those cast aside, who promises resurrection from the power of death. The knowledge that all is well, and that all manner of things shall be well, is life-giving power, and not just a pithy proverb. The promise that all shall be brought under his rule, a rule marked by love, justice, and righteousness, is just the news we need to hang onto. We can grieve our losses, we can speak out the wounds we receive, and we can lay it all in the hands of One who has known injustice and loss. And there, we can rest.
Not that I'm there yet, mind you. I still feel like punching that guy in the teeth. But God's working on me there.
But this has been running around in my head today, especially once we got the news about Heidi. Listen prayerfully, and let God speak to you through it.
*One of my patented maxims is "The number one thing that gets me into trouble is expecting adults to behave like adults." Feel free to quote me on that one.