On Tuesday, in the midst of a pastoral visit, this favorite church member announced that she might be done with this town. She came home from a vacation to discover that this is not where she wants to be. I perked up. Too much. If you know me well, as it turns out she does, you know that I have no poker face. None. What. So. Ever.
As with every other pastoral visit we've shared over the years, she asked how I was. It happens the same way every time. She asks once in the beginning. She asks once in the middle of our conversation when she realizes she's "monopolized all the air time." And once more when our conversation is nearly over. I always dodge the question. She knows I'm doing it. I offer small bits of information but my walls are so high that I don't share all that much.
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Not this time. This time I spilled. "Well," I said. "It's interesting. I'm compelled by part of your story as it relates to my own." And then, it just came out. Choppy. Awkward. Honest. I'm discerning a move. I'm wondering if its time to do the next thing.
She said what I would have expected her to say. She referenced her concern about me from the beginning. She was always nervous I wouldn't stay. She didn't think I had a prayer to last here. She knew the track-record of my colleague. There's a pattern that she noticed. She wasn't going to trust me, but she did.
She started to refer to me as her life line -- which obviously made me uncomfortable. And yet, I was. I was the only safe space that she could talk about her mother's illness, her divorce, her children and her shattered relationship with her church (the same one that I serve and try to invite her into). She let me listen to things that she wouldn't let anyone else hear. She trusted me. And, in this choppy, awkward and honest moment, I realized how much this trust meant to me. I realized the indelible mark it has left upon my own hands that I could now trust her as she as trusted me. Yes, it's tricky and far from simple -- but to read these words in her email just now reminded me how important this beloved community is to me:
We’ll not be done with one and the other when geography or polity might suggest otherwise. I’ll be insisting on that.