This year, our congregation drew starwords. A starword is a word (written on a star) that reveals God to you: provides a way to think about how you see God active in your life and in others; a word to focus your prayers around; a word to encourage you or challenge you to live into.
My star word is definitely challenging: courage. I have a couple of ideas about what that might mean for me this year
I’m starting a new call and I want to correct some bad habits I developed in my last one. Overwork, not taking time for Sabbath, family, selfcare. Timidity in my leadership – not preaching against injustice when I know it will make my congregation angry, going with the flow instead of challenging them. I lead like the Cowardly Lion – with a roar the turns into a whimper at the slightest opposition.
Does it take courage to make sure I’m taking time for myself? Maybe in my case it does. After all, I was raised to believe that any thing I wanted or needed was selfish and I had to totally give up self for the good of the family. In the dynamics of a family led by an alcoholic father, I had to learn to over-function to survive. This is strange territory, to carve out boundaries, to ask for what I need, to make sure I am taking care of me. I’ve wandered in this land before, slowly, tenuously venturing further and further past the border until the outskirts of the land of self-care has a well-known path I trod but never venture deeper. Do I have the courage to forge a new path?
I know it take courage to lead. I envy my colleagues who take a stand against injustice and look at my own reticence with shame. I justify it by saying that my congregation is not where theirs is, that mine has not done the early stages of work, that they are just not ready for the steps my colleagues are taking. While there is truth to that do I use this as an excuse to engage in the hard work of recognition of our complicity in injustice, of reconciliation? Do I have the courage to “wake” my congregation instead of letting them comfortably snooze?
I have a new start, a new call. A chance to redefine the kind of pastor I am. A chance to live into the person God has called me to be. That would take courage.
It’s a good word for me this year.
If you would like a star word, let me know in the comments and I'll draw one for you.