Advice is not my calling. Even though I’m a pastor and people often come to me for guidance, I resist the pressure to whittle down my role into what I like to call, “advicer.” Being a pastor is so much bigger! Plus, I’ve discovered that when people come to me for help in a tough situation, many of them already have a plan they want to execute. What they’re really looking for is permission from a spiritual authority to take a route that’s easier, but not necessarily better, for all involved. This is a dangerous game, one that subtly deals in manipulating a pastor’s pride and power. It’s a game I refuse to play.
Instead, when people come to me, I like to ask a lot of questions. My goal is try to uncover motivations, help articulate emotions, and generally to explore perspectives and options. As a pastor, it’s vital that I spend far more time asking questions than I do giving my opinion. That keeps me in the proper place as a caring companion and God in the proper place as Healer and Guide. It’s inescapable though – as a pastor people will always expect me to give advice.
I resist the same pressure as a blogger. I read a lot of blogs and articles. The trend these days is to write pieces that critique how Mr. X gets it wrong, tell how to do something in ___ easy steps, or list the top ___ reasons to do or be ______. (If I read one more blog title that starts with, “Five Ways To…” my fingers may fall off and my eyes start shooting jalapeno juice!) In other words, it’s all advice and opinions.
I want this blog to be more. I want more exploration, more creativity, more room to stretch, more questions, more compassion for difference and failure. I hope that by writing from my deep places with my unique voice, I’ll reach someone, somewhere in need of my spirit.
Though I’m cautious about dealing in advice, I realize that I do have some wisdom to offer, especially when it concerns caring for others. Fourteen years ago, God revealed that my calling was to care for the suffering. It’s a calling grounded in the spiritual gifts of compassion and mercy. With more than a decade of pastoral care in the trenches, after extensive training in crisis response and stumbling my way through the gauntlet of clinical chaplaincy, I have valuable skills and informed perspective to offer.
As you know from my last post, several of my friends are in crisis. I was debriefing with a friend, talking through what I was doing in response, how I’m able to help and my limitations. My friend said, “You know Corrie, not everyone knows how to do what you do. It’s a gift.” Well, yes. What I do as a pastor starts with a calling and gifting, but that I’m able to care well relies very much on the fact that I want to care. That I’ve tried to care and failed. That I’ve forgiven my failures and spring-board from them into fresh attempts.
My high school choir director Mr. Griffin used to say, “Everyone can sing, but not everyone can sing well. I can always teach someone to sing better.” I believe that everyone has the capacity care for others, they just might need some lessons. The raw materials we need are love and the desire to put love into action.
You all have people who you dearly love. Your loved ones will experience pain from time to time and you’ll want to reach out and show you care, but you may not know how. That’s where I can help.
Today I begin a new series called “When Someone You Love.” It will address situations that are common to relationships, but ones in which we may not be comfortable or well-equipped to respond. Future posts include: when someone you love loses someone they love, when someone you love is being abused, when someone you love is dying. I’m going to share what I’ve learned, tell stories of failures and successes, confront unhelpful tendencies, and chart out some ways we can show that we care.
And yes, this means I’ll give advice, but you can trust that it won’t be trite or untested and it will always be open to feedback. Feel free to email me with topics you’d like to tackle – firstname.lastname@example.org.