Jean Vanier, Community and Growth
One of the reasons I knew it was time for me to move beyond my current
And that cuts to Vanier's point: without a strong, disciplined and vibrant inner life that wraps our outward actions in quiet contemplation, it is so easy to become bitter. We blame others for being human. For exposing our wounds. For failing to help us take care of ourselves. Been there, done that - and have spent the better part of four decades learning this same lesson over and over again. I suspect, but do not know, that seminaries are better at equipping young ordinands with wise spiritual directors who can advance spiritual formation than in my day. In the 70s, the once mainstream denominations of the Reformed tradition were just beginning to accept that generations had lost touch with the practices of piety that once nourished the Body of Christ. You can read early Kathleen Norris or Richard Foster as evidence of the Protestant renewal of spirituality that was reborn in the 70s.
My experience with bitterness in ministry has a largely been a grief of my own making: often, it has been a self-fulfilling prophecy, too. The gospel reading for this coming Sunday, the second parable in St. Matthew 25, points to the dangers of such self-fulfilling prophecies. This is not a story about inherent "talents" like musical ability or business acumen. David Lohse rightly notes that this is Jesus telling us to change our understanding of God from that of a tyrant to that of a lover. If we believe the Lord our God is out to get us, that's what we will get: fear, loneliness, anxiety and bitterness.
Learning this truth over and over helped me distinguish between my exhaustion and former bitterness. This was part of how I knew it was time to let the local church go. Today I return thanks to the spiritual directors in my life who have been patient, loving and clear-headed when I was bewildered, afraid and angry. Thank you Fr. Jim and dear Adolfo. Without you, and your big hearts and clear minds, I would be a bitter pill indeed!