And here’s the thing.
I finished a gig at the Haliburton Highlands brewery about a month ago. It’s in an area of the province where I served as a United Church Minister for five years back in 1987 – 1992.
It was the place that when scarce years after I had been ordained I started to doubt my calling to the ministry.
There were friends I had made outside the church, because, at the time, it was not a good idea to make too many within the walls of the sanctuary.
The long and short of it was some ten years after I moved on from that place, the initial doubts about my calling turned into a full-fledged crisis of faith and sanity. I became seriously mentally unfit to do the work that hitherto I thought I had been called to. I quit the church and the Christian faith.
More than a decade and a half later I return as someone different, but the same.
Besh, an old friend of mine, had written in a post commenting on a picture of me in dog-collared finery, staring out at the camera, glasses slightly askew, a deer in the headlights of Jesus.
This is what he said:
“Thank you for your service, Ed.”
That was it.
Besh had never been a member of my congregation, indeed never been in any area where I had served.
Somehow he understood on a level far deeper than what I was able to perceive at the time, that what I had done in the years as minister was serve in a strange way comparable to what he had done in the Armed Forces.
And he identified with that action in such a way so as to thank me for that service.
We met a few weeks later for breakfast in the town where I live. When I mentioned this to him, he pointed out, “You never know how many hundreds or even thousands of people you touched and changed because of your time in that capacity.”
Indeed I don’t. People shared with me their grief, celebration, perplexity, doubt, joy, frustration, accomplishment, courage, and vulnerability. I listened and did what I could. And I tried to interpret the teachings of a first-century Palestinian rabbi to a twentieth-century mind. Sometimes I was clear. Most times I was as confused as the rest of us human beings.
And now, no longer in that arena, I play in another one. Sometimes clear, most times still confused.
Still amazed, humbled, and grateful.