How I trooped back to church through Rock with some monks.January 2021
After forty years of church, seven as a pastor, I lost my religion.
I wanted nothing to do with it. I was frustrated, burned out, and angry. Depression and anxiety overwhelmed both medications and counselling. The anger was rooted in hurt, disappointment, and tiredness. It led to behaviour “unbecoming a pastor”, storming out of meetings, or swearing at an elder.
These have consequences, rightly, and sadly so. I was retired for health reasons, burnout and depression. Thankfully, this allowed me to retain my ministerial credentials. An irreverent Reverend. Some desired stronger consequences, which I admit, had some justification.
After forty dutiful years – church attendance, Christian Schools & Colleges, Catechism, Small Groups, Seminary, and pastoring – I was free falling, with further to go.
I was bad to the bone in the province of stinking thinking. To make ends meet I drove transport, long haul. Its cab, was my cell, jail and monastic, retreat and remand. Here, I wrestled with God, swamped in self-pity. I believed no one could understand my despair and humiliation. I grieved for a job I’d loved and lost, more than I’d done for any person. Talk about stinking thinking!
I was going through a “teenage rebellion” in my forties, or midlife crisis. So I turned the Rock up loud, from the fifties to the naughts, and beyond. The defiant screams, heart-broken anger, and biting lyrics with raucous guitar riffs and heavy back beat, articulated my state of mind for several years.
Chuck Berry, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Sammy Hagar, Styx, Trooper, Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams, John Couger Mellencamp, and of course, U2 & Midnight Oil, plus others.
They did what no one else could do, stick with me, in a living hell of heart and mind. Providentially, they were backed up by God, through the prayers of my Men’s Group, spouse, family, and friends.
Eventually their prayers infiltrated the driving rock lyrics to say, “Hey Mister! It’s a beautiful day, don’t let it get away! Someday you’ll get it right! But today, as a man in motion, start taking care of business again, provide for your faith life, stop letting the four strong winds toss you about, feel the hand of God reaching out for you, making your own Northwest passage.”
God did not speak so inarticulately. Yet, overtime, He impressed that and more on my heart. I began salting my Rock with Cistercian Chant. Then one day I noticed I was praying for others. Then rock was joined by Jazz, Western, Classical, followed some time later by Fernando Ortega, John Michael Talbot, and Newsboys. Gradually church attendance crawled from 5 times/year, to once per month, which stepped up to twice per month, then I was back into a steady, weekly pace. I was in church again!
I told my men’s group, “I really don’t know, how I got from where I was seven years ago to here. From a mental hell, to something beautiful today, not quite heaven, but at least walking on sunshine more often than not.”
Their response, “Remember, we prayed for you…, A LOT!”
Have I found religion again?
Well, I’m not free falling anymore. My faith’s been restored. There are things I don’t like, so I raise a little hell with God, who changes me to see something beautiful despite the ugliness.
Some beautiful things are I am now at home in not one, but two congregations, and two small groups. Plus, I work part-time for my denomination again. All faithful, not perfect, like me, partnering with God to change the world to the place where the streets have no name.
“How do we get there?”
“It could be a name, yet, it’s a thought that changed the world.”
Did mine, thanks to Rock and monks, I found myself still in the hands of God.