Dear God,

    “I’m afraid to start.”

     I’m not sure if you’ve ever said that to yourself.  Actually, I built this scenario where you said these very words to yourself in the process of creation.  In my imagination I see you standing there with a dazed look in your eyes as you stared into the darkness and saying, “Hhum, where do I begin?” That’s why, I tell myself, it took you six days…you weren’t sure where to start!  OK, so maybe not.

     Sometimes those words are less of a statement than a realization: times when I’ve become “frozen” and I realize it’s because I’m overwhelmed with uncertainty or fear of making a mistake.

     So what am I afraid to start right now?  A stone wall.  Literally!  (How figurative is that, huh God!)

     You know how I love carpentry, God.  It’s a part of my DNA.  I love to build, to watch the process of building, and to talk with builders.  I watch all the building shows, critically, and love to learn what all the trades are doing and why.  It’s such a part of me that in both of my last two churches I’ve told the search committee (that committee of church members who interview the pastor before recommending him/her to the congregation) that if I couldn’t build I couldn’t do ministry.  Many days I visit with people and talk about concerns and problems.  Much of the work I do is long-term…planting seeds that might come to fruition in days, weeks, months, or years…or not at all. 

     However, with carpentry it’s different.  I can work with my hands and see results immediately because maybe I tore something apart, repaired something, or replaced something.  Maybe I’ve worked and gotten one step completed in the process of many steps to come.  Maybe I’ve hit my thumb, but whatever it is, by the end of the day I can see something tangible. 

     So back to the stone wall.  I’ve been helping the wife of a friend whom I buried a few months ago.  They bought a house from the ’70’s that needs work.  One job is to remove the adhesive brick (Z-Brick) from the 7′ wide fireplace wall and re-face the wall with cultured (artificial) stone.  So far so good.  The old brick is off.  The new concrete board is on.  “Just start putting the stone up.  Right?”  That’s where I’m stuck.

     I’m afraid to make a mistake in the pattern of the stone.  I’m afraid that once I’ve glued/mortared all the stone on it won’t look good…so I’m stuck and afraid to begin.  The funny thing is that the longer I allow myself to stay in this stuck position the more difficult it is to move forward…causing me to be more and more stuck!

     So what have I done to help myself?  Well, I have watched segments that have been posted on YouTube…over and over again.  I’ve also been studying pictures of a completed fireplace where the same stone was used and I’ve asked lots of questions.  But I’m stuck, so I do the same things over and over again.  The funny thing is, I know in the end the owner will be happy with the work I did…but for the moment I’m stuck.

I’ve known this stuck-thing before, God.  In fact, I think many of us have felt this.  We stay away from nursing homes “because they are depressing”, not thinking about how depressing it is not to have company.  We stop calling people who got a divorce because we don’t know how to be friends with both.  We try to avoid people who have emotional difficulties because we don’t understand them.  We don’t call people after a death because we might say the wrong thing.  In a sense, we get stuck and immobilized…which makes it worse, because the more time that goes on the more afraid we get.

     But you call me to “un-stick” myself in life.  You tell me it’s better to say the wrong things in good faith than to not say anything…it’s better to stop and visit than to avoid the person in need.  All of this is done knowing I don’t know exactly what I’m doing, and no YouTube video will answer all the questions I have.  Nike is right…”Just do it!”

     That’s the theme of ministry/life, I guess.  But I need your help with some confidence.  Help me not to be afraid to wade in to the pain of others just because I might make a mistake.  Give me a nudge, and then help me to trust that you’ll give me the tools I need to act. 


Pastoral Ponderings July 2014