Thursday, January 06, 2005

Pastoring out of the box

One of my favorite blogs is His post, "Susan and the Cookie Man," January 5, reminds me of the strange situations pastors can get themselves into.

For twenty years I worked with Jack Domagall. His first wife was bi-polar and I remember sitting in our shared office as he described his tale of woe. Once in a manic episode this woman, who almost never went out of town, drove all night to the Peace Gardens on the North Dakota - Canadian border.

Eventually they divorced.

He married again and soon discovered he had married a woman with bi-polar illness. That marriage didn't last long.

For years we shared an office and he'd ocasionally say to me, "If I ever tell you I am going to get married again, shoot me."

Then he met Rose. They lived together for awhile and then Jack asked me to marry them.
I'm a big believer in church weddings. After all marriage, in my eyes, is not only between the couple but between the couple and God. And every marriage needs the support of a community.

By the time Jack asked me to marry he and Rose I had been a pastor long enough to know that life seldom fits the neat little boxes we'd like it to.

And there's always Jesus who seemed to bang regularly through the boxes that his religious compatriots had set up to manage life with God and his people.

I took a deep breath and said yes.

It was a small private ceremony with 20 people at a bed and breakfast. Jack, who was blind and the funniest man I've ever known, walked down the little aisle with his bride to be, swinging his cane, and firing off one-liners.

Jack died last winter. Such a shock. He'd been sick but none of his friends or Rose knew he was that sick.

At his memorial service lots of people shared. One of the themes-- the handful of years of being married to Rose were the happiest years of his life.

Every once in awhile I do things as a pastor that don't fit the box. Maybe I do it because I know that God loves me. He knows that life is much bigger than the little boxes I'd like to wrap it in.

And, as Jesus demonstrated over and over again, people and groups never thrives in too small a box.

I just want to be gentle with the out-of-the-box people who wander across my path. When I get to heaven I trust Jesus to be gentle with me as he tells me how I've done.