Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Dittes Quote

So this morning I posted on my other blog a couple of videos that were my Saturday morning inspiration. One of the videos was a lecture given by Brené Brown on the power of vulnerability. And a quote from that video caught my attention so that I posted it several places: "When we work from a place that says 'I'm enough', then we stop screaming and start listening." This same sentence, which catapulted my day into productivity and joy triggered considerable angst for a ministry colleague of mine, and so I thought I might post here a longer quote that gets me through my most desperate days of ministry. These are the days when I think I am the worst pastor on earth, and that my sense of call is really just a desperate, infantile grasping after power and meaning. Pastors have days like this. Too many days.

But I took a class from the Rev. Dr. Bob Dykstra at Princeton Theological Seminary. And he had us read fifty-eleven books. And one of those books was Re-Calling Ministry by James E. Dittes. And in that book was a chapter called "Thirty-eight Years on the Verge." And at the end of that chapter were these words I live by, work by, and manage to sleep by:
We each have our own way of promising ourselves that moments of significance, of faithfulness, of effectiveness are just ahead: Right now the circumstances aren't quite right; I'm too unprepared, too ordinary, too fumbling. Just a little more patching here and a little more polishing there, then I'll be in ministry...

...There is no such thing as being on the verge. It only feels that way. Either be sick where you are, or else there, where you are, "Stand up, take your mat and walk." There is no moratorium possible. There is no exemption assigned. Wherever you are, however you are, you are living as fully in the world, you are exercising as complete a ministry as you ever will. People are looking to you now (and perhaps away again), affected one way or another by what you say and do. And they won't come back again whenever you finally announce that you are "ready." For you never will. Our moments come and go, and our actions and decisions in them, even in the most unlikely moments and the most unprepared states, affect us and others irrevocably...

...we are assured that this present, hectic, ordinary, unprepared life is not really ordinary and is not really unprepared. For God is here. We don't have to send pleadingly, "Come down, Lord." God is already here and working healing to us and through us. We don't have to beg or wait or yearn for special baptism in the Beth-zatha pool. WE only have to rise up on the verge: "Stand up, take your mat and walk."

God does not call us out of our life as we know it into ministry, but calls us to find our ministry in our life. We needn't despair of present humdrumness, hindrance or hecticness. Nor must we hide in false hopes of the future, of another place or time where signs and wonders and certainty and readiness will abound. It is just possible that in the unlikeliness of your present situation and with all the unlikeliness of yourself as you now are, even in the routines of your life this day--not even waiting until your headache feels better or until you get those letters written, or until you get those phone calls made or until you get away from the phone, or until you have a chance to look up something in the reference book, or until you can consult about it or even make up your own mind--God may touch you to cleanse, to reveal, to chasten, to claim you and your ministry. (81-83)

Let the people say Amen.