Nobody likes to be weak; I don’t think. As I approach geezer status, I’m beginning to feel the edges of weakness. At my last physical I told my doc that I was feeling my muscles a little weak. I was wondering if there was something wrong with my body. He asked me to squeeze his fingers, he did some other tests, and told me everything seemed normal. A day later the results of my blood work came back, and they were all normal.
Oh, I thought. This must be the approach of old age. I wasn’t happy about it, not at all. Maybe a couple of years ago the local policewoman in the little town where I live stopped and took out a shovel. She dug my car out of the snow. My my, I thought then, I used to be the one digging other people out of the snow.
Reflecting on 2021 parish life it seems to me that in some areas I am becoming less competent to do the work of being a pastor. I first learned to use computers in 1977, back in the day when having a calculator was a big deal. I learned one set of operating systems, then another, then another. As the technology advanced, the old knowledge I had became obsolete almost overnight. So, I decided a couple of years ago that I was done learning new software. Except that I couldn’t! The constant growth in information technology can be a great thing for parishes. It can be very useful for a parish to use something like Realm, or other databases to do better pastoral care for parishioners.
At the same time, I recognize a couple of things in myself. First, I don’t really want to learn any new technology. After all, there are a limited number of days in my life, and whatever new thing I might learn will soon become obsolete. I’d much rather learn about things that last forever! Second, my capacity to learn this kind of new video game is diminishing. I forget things… passwords, where files are kept in the computer, etc. etc.
All the same, I think the Lord is helping me grow in holiness. I am sure I have a much deeper understanding of the human condition than I did when I was 18, or 30, or 50. On the things that last forever, I am a better priest than I was before. Having fallen into sin and having been forgiven (over and over again!) has made me a better confessor than I was when I was 26. Having seen God’s grace heal people I was convinced were beyond salvation has deepened my faith. Having heard stories of resilience and compassion has given me great consolation in my own weaknesses. In many ways I know I am a better pastor than I was before.
I am getting weaker. It’s part of life. Kind people have been helping me all my life, and now they’ll be helping me more. I hope to have the grace to ask for help as the years go by. We’ll see! I can be kind of mulish. Or maybe I’m pig headed. I remember someone commenting to me that pigs are hard animals to move. You pull their tail, and they want to go forward. You pull their ears, and they want to go backwards. That’s me (at my worst!).
I hope to give the strong people a place to use their strength. What good is it to be strong if you don’t have anywhere to use your strength! Thank God for our young people! It will be Jesus who grows in me as I weaken. Maybe he’ll turn me into a Christian and take me home at the end. I hope!
“I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10