Annual Conference was, overall, a great experience. I got to re-connect with a number of friends I hadn't seen in a year or more. On Thursday night I had dinner with a former pastor (who is now a friend and mentor), on Friday I had lunch with my friend Hannah, who helped hold me together during the SJ debacle, and on Friday night I had dinner with Lee, my college roommate (who is not clergy, but who lives in the city where AC was held). The preaching was incredible: Rev. Dr. Sam Wells (the dean of the chapel at Duke) was the preacher, and BOY OH BOY can the man preach. Worship was filling, and I also enjoyed voting for General and Jurisdictional Conference delegates for the very first time.
There were parts of AC that were challenging. The sermons, worship, and conversations both opened and healed past wounds. It was wonderful and affirming to be among fellow clergy and to be reminded of who I am and Whose I am, but it also served as a reminder that while I'm where God wants me to be, I'm still "in limbo", so to speak.
The sessions and voting continued into Sunday, but both Mac and I both chose to leave on Saturday afternoon (separately, of course) to be at BT on Sunday morning. I think he didn't want to take another Sunday off, and I was on-call on Saturday night and scheduled to be the liturgist on Sunday morning. And once again, Mac's sermon made me cry. While I was the liturgist. In front of everyone. Thankfully, I don't think many people noticed, and my part of the service was already over (I do the first half, and he does the second half), but it was just a little embarrassing. So, after the service was over, I glared at him, told him he was a sadist for making me cry when I was the liturgist, and stomped off. I then went into a dark classroom to cry for half an hour. Later I sent him an e-mail apologizing for the sadist remark, although from his response he was more flattered than offended.
There is a reason that I cried during that sermon, and it's because God spoke to me in a powerful way about a particular issue in my life. I'm not going to dwell on that right now. What I do want to dwell on is how I've seen God work through Mac, week in and week out, to really BRING IT in terms of preaching. In the nine months since I've really been paying attention to his sermons, I have only heard one sermon that even came close to being a "dud". Sunday was the ninth time that Mac's sermon made me cry, and the third time that I've pretty much sobbed during/after a sermon.
So, I can't help but be amazed at the man/instrument of God who can attend three days of meetings from 7am to 10:30pm, drive five hours, arrive home at 9pm, probably wake up around 6am, and then stand in the pulpit and deliver a sermon that powerful and convicting. It elicits two responses in me: a desire to learn as much as possible from Mac so that I can be that effective, and a desire to slink away because I don't see how I'll ever be that effective. I guess I find Mac both inspiring and intimidating (side note: that's kind of amusing to me, because as I'm getting to know him better, I'm becoming more and more aware of his blind spots, so I certainly know that he is not perfect. But what he does well, he does VERY VERY well). I want to be just like him (not really, but you know what I mean), but part of me feels that's impossible.
These days, I'm torn between the burning desire to be back under appointment, to be a pastor, to be in full-time ministry...and the utter fear that I will not measure up, that I will not be effective, that I will never meet my potential, and that my sermons will always be mediocre.
I guess, in a way, I'm torn between trusting God and relying on God's grace to transform me into the person and pastor I am meant to be...and shrinking away because of the fear that I don't have what it takes to be a preacher and leader who God works through to change lives.
I know what I need to do...and which choice is the better one. It's just hard.