I am always glad to hear when someone has read something I have written and found it to be helpful or meaningful. Doesn't happen too often--either because I have so few readers or have written such unhelpful and unmeaningful stuff or both. Today, though, I had such a moment...
In my study group, one of our older members told of another group in which he takes part, a kind of mentoring and support group (ours is a lectionary study group), and that one fellow in that group has been going through a terrible time. He seems to have been charged with or accused of some impropriety and has been away from ministry for a while, though now he has finished a time of counseling and renewal and may be preparing to re-enter the fray. Anyway, my friend told me this morning that in a recent meeting the damaged pastor confided to him that he had discovered a book that really helped him: Praying for Dear Life, by yours truly.
Tears came to my eyes immediately, both remembering my own prodigality--some 15 years ago now--and knowing that the book the fellow read was born out of similar tragedy and hope.
I lost so much. I gave up so much, really. In truth, I threw so much away. But the horrible aftermath of that debacle was so intertwined with hope as to conceive the book I wrote some years later. Tragedy and hope, like egg and sperm, joining and gestating in the darkness of exile, birthed and raised in the wilderness between liberation and promise.
It is my baby, that book, and I am proud of it as parents are proud of their kids. When no one can see how special my baby is, I grieve--for the book and myself. But on those rare occasions when others seem to appreciate it as I do, a least a little, it makes my day. The best of times.
I said more or less all that to my friend.
He got a funny look on his face and said, "Well, now, I will have to unmake your day." And he proceeded to tell me that the damaged fellow had no idea who I was or that I was a colleague of his only one district removed. In other words, we are in the same conference of ministers, attend the same meetings, are supervised and superintended by many of the same people, and yet he had no idea who I was or where I serve or anything.
I thought of that logion of Jesus: prophets are not without honor except in their own home, but of course I am no prophet, or the son of a prophet. I am just a "herdsman," a "dresser of sycamore trees," which is to say, I am a garden-variety pastor, one of the little guys, and so no surprise that though he pitches his tent only a little ways over from me, he does not know who I am.
What is a surprise is that he has read me (when many, even of my friends, haven't). What is a grace, and the profoundest of joys, is that what he has read, apparently, has spoken to his heart --my spirit bearing witness to his spirit that we are both children of tragedy, children of hope, children of God.