February 07, 2006

Letting Off Steam

At this moment, I'm in downtown Marysville, at a place called The Brick Coffee House Café, enjoying a blueberry muffin and a cup of jasmine green tea. An exceptionally warm mid-winter sun shines through the front window and onto my table. Muffled conversation is punctuated by the occasional clinking of dishware and cutlery.

I sit at my table alone, pondering the challenges of being a father and the pastor of a small country church. The cupboards at home are almost bare, yet the checkbook already shows a negative balance. I count on grace that comes in the form of uncleared checks and debits.

I have a meeting at Buttes Christian Manor at 11:00; it is a church-related living facility for low-income seniors, and I'm on the Operations Board. I had planned on spending the morning visiting some of our shut-in church members who live in the Yuba City/Marysville area, but my wife needed our one car this morning, so she dropped me off here at The Brick. Buttes Christian Manor is just a block away. It's probably just as well. I'm in no right frame of mind for visiting, anyway.

At the house this morning, it was 90 minutes of chaos. Stephen and Spencer arrived at 6:45 in their usual early morning cheer, yelling at one another and lobbing cuss words at anyone in their path. Stephen usually grabs a blanket and curls up on the couch in my office, to catch up on some extra sleep before school. Knowing that I'd be away from my office today, I was already at work at my desk when he arrived, and Stephen was dismayed, as if I had no right to be there.

That's when I realized that my office is not my own. And not just my office; the computer in the living room--the only computer with internet access, and the one where Spencer was currently communicating with his MySpace friends--is not mine. Our car--which Stephen actually drives more often than I do--is not mine. My kitchen--which Spencer raids every morning before school, complaining because we're out of this or that--is not mine. My life, it seems, is not mine.

On the day I was baptized, at the age of 11 (or so), I gave my life away. I gave it to Jesus. I didn't really know what that meant. Had I known, I might have decided differently.

Before heading to town, we dropped all the kids off at school. Spencer was complaining (with much cussing) that my wife and I never do anything for him. I lost it. I told him if it's so bad, to stop coming over to the house. If it's so bad, take the bus to school. If it's so bad, keep your ungrateful self at home with your ungrateful parents....I was fuming all the way to Marysville.

My tea and muffin are half gone. I was thinking that at least, for now, this table is mine, and no one's going to bother me here, but two older women just walked in and took a seat at the table next to mine; one of them is wearing so much perfume, it's making me nauseous.

Fantasies of running away fill my mind. My commitments will leave those fantasies unfulfilled. Besides, I realize that those who bring me the most anguish, are also those who bring me the most joy. Previous blog posts are proof of this. So I'll just keep on keepin' on, and pray that God will guide me.


peripateticpolarbear said...

You do such good work. It kills me that you have to do so much of it just to pay the bills. I keep wishing for an "adopt a country/urban pastor" program in my denomination, but so far no takers.

G. said...

Your life is so very different than mine on the outside: you have a wife, kids, you're a proper pastor, it's not sub-zero where you live right now (grin)... but you know, I was baptized at the age of 11 too... had I known all that was to come in my life, would I have chosen not to follow Christ? When I was hunting under my car seats for quarters and loose change this week, and wondering which important bills *not* to pay, because I spent my last money on people who needed it more than I (my little ministries in my little world)... I think you're doing a far better job than I am! ;)

mark said...

You know... I'm glad that you mentioned that your previous blog posts are testaments to how blessed you are. I can't speak for anyone else, but when I read your posts, and about your relationships with your wife and your many kids, I can't help but think that those are the stories of a tremendously blessed life.
Oh, that and you can also grow good facial hair. Tremendously blessed, I say.