Bart and I had a long Instant message conversation this morning as I relayed to him my conversation with the social worker. The decision that we had to make was whether or not we should present our case in court for what we think is best or simply tell the social worker that we have thoroughly explained our position and that if he still, knowing all of our concerns, chose to put John in foster care in our community, then we would not protest.
The conclusion of our conversation, just so I don’t leave you hanging, was for me to call the worker and let him know that we would not say anything further in court other than that we had already expressed our concerns to the worker about John being placed in this community.
The most troubling part of this for me is that I have a wonderful husband who, in my estimation (and not only in mine) is an excellent pastor and a wonderful spiritual leader. But the conclusion that he has made is that having John back in the community will make it very difficult to pastor here. John will be going to school with lots of kids that go to our church and may spread many untruths about us.
Often Bart mentions these verses from I Timothy 3 to me often in regards to our family situation and his duties as a pastor.
Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.
Bart comes to these conclusions: He is a pastor. He is supposed to be a spiritual leader. How can he stand up every Sunday and tell other people how to live their lives “when ours are in shambles.” Aren’t people going to say, “What does he know? He has a kid who is in foster care because they won’t let him live at home.” He talks about how he may be forced to find other employment.
I reassure him again and again that people are not going to draw those conclusion. That there has to be a special "between the lines" clause that if your kids are adopted as older children and are mentally ill that it doesn’t apply.
It is my firm belief that what is needed in the church is authenticity and vulnerability. Church is not somewhere where people should go and “put on their best face” pretending that things are going well when they aren’t. The body of Christ should be a place where people can come and lay it all out there and find love, encouragement, support, the benefit of the doubt, and forgiveness. I want our church to be like that, and I feel like our hurting kids and the pain they cause us are an opportunity for us to be examples of that kind of vulnerability.
And so I feel like Bart is MORE effective because he authentically invites his congregations to live through our pain with us. He has never been anything but honest in all three of the parishes we have served since our marriage. When are kids aren’t doing well, we honestly report that. We ask them to pray for us, we admit that we struggle.
So as Bart fears that this will harm his credibility, I only see it as an opportunity for God to use our pain to reach others in pain. Perfect pastors with perfect families intimidate the rest of us who are living through less than perfect situations. I wrote this brilliant conclusion to him in an IM today that I believe sums up the issue of credibility for pastors: Credibility doesn't come through perfection, it comes through honest interpretation of an imperfect life.
And I close with words to a Jason Gray song that I used for another video from FASD camp. I'm playing it now and it is the crux of where we are. Are we strong enough to recognize our weakness and realize that our imperfections is what God uses to do God's best work?
Weak Words: Jason Gray Music: JG & Nate Sabin
I was afraid to be weak Afraid to be me I was afraid Because I didn’t want them to see What’s broken in me
But I guess I was wrong I should’ve known all along When I’m weak You are strong in me You make up what I lack You shine through the cracks Where I was shattered Because You pour out Your grace Through my broken places
So I won’t be afraid to cry To confess or question why I won’t hide the pain I feel Now I know these wounds are how you heal No I won’t be afraid to cry I don’t want to live a lie They will see Your love is real When I let You use my wounds to heal These wounds are how You heal You can use these wounds to heal
If they’re afraid I stand too tall They’ll tear down the bridges and build a wall But if they see I stumble the walls may crumble down
I was wrong I don’t have to be strong I didn’t want to believe But now I finally see My deepest point of need Is the better part of me `Cause when I’m weak You are strong in me