It was a good day for a long drive with the windows down. Plenty of sunshine and blue sky. Lots of time to think to be grateful. And think.
My trip took me to a prison. I spent a few hours with a friend. He's a good guy and I always learn something from him. Today we were talking about our fathers. I was also trying to recruit him to become a pastor.
In sharing our stories with each other, we got to talking about the different ways that men can be passive. How passivity in a man can become addictive, a form of bondage, and how a wife's response is often counter-productive. We ruminated on the ways that this passivity can get passed on to the next generation. It's a form of giving up, of disconnecting, of disengaging. It's part laziness, part selfishness, part apathy, part despair. It's also toxic.
We also got to talking about the ways pastors can flail in their ministry. There are pastors who are very religious, but disconnected from reality. There are pastors who are above others. There are pastors who are popular but then disappoint. There seems to be an expectation of pastors to never fail. But there is also an expectation for pastors to be useless. The common experience seems to be that pastors will let you down sooner or later; they are ultimately unreliable, just like everyone else.
For the boys and men in our church who have passive fathers and flailing pastors, what is their fate?
And what is the antidote?
My friend in prison is honest with me about his life, his experiences, his assessments of people. He can see through people. He knows what failure is. And recovering. Together we discussed some options for dealing with a past that included passive men and flailing pastors. It involved authentic introspection, identifying the ways that we were passive, the ways we flail.
How do you impart courage into a passive man? What's the antidote for cowardice, the fear to engage and love and make decisions? There is help, it doesn't have to be a mystery. It's not about ignorance, it's about desire.
What to do with the flailing pastors of your past? Forgive them? Be wary of them? Learn from them? Pity them? Mock them? Reconnect with them? When a pastor flails, it often results in others falling away from the church, their faith, even God. The pressure to not flail can be oppressive. And yet flailing pastors will always be part of the church experience, of our culture. Why the scorn for flailing pastors?
I know a lot of passive men. I could be one of them. I know pastors who are flailing. I could be one of them. I have been passive, and it was toxic. I have flailed, and it has hurt others. What do I do with that part of me? What do I do when I see that in others? When those men and pastors are part of my life?
Initiative. Decisions. Confidence. Choices. Engage. Listen. Learn. Sacrifice. Desire. Lift. Care. These have been my attempts to erode my passivity, to make amends for my flailings.
Hmmm...well, yes... there is plenty on which to ponder.