I was talking with a church member yesterday, who told me the following story. Over the weekend she and her family had gone down to the waterfront, where they encountered a person wearing a Darth Vader mask riding a unicycle while playing the bagpipes. Let me repeat: a person wearing a Darth Vader mask riding a unicycle playing the bagpipes. Only in Portland.
All of which got me to thinking: we really are fearfully and wonderfully made, and then we add to that. Some add tattoos and piercings; some add pounds, stretch marks, cellulite. Some add hair color, some shave their heads. We add contact lenses and titanium hip joints and pig valves in the heart. Our hearts add other stuff too: grief and joy, regret, disappointment that washes everything to a dull grey, hope for something better the next time around.
As a pastor, I think a lot about the community of fearfully and wonderfully made people, and the “I” and “we” of that, and the tension of individual desires and needs and the common good of the community. Even after twenty years in ordained ministry, I struggle with pastoring well to everyone, knowing that that is an impossible yet necessary (but maybe not necessary) goal. Several years ago, Duke Divinity School professor Stanley Hauerwas observed that in the modern day, ministry had reduced to a pastor being “a quivering mass of availability.” While that is the shortcut to burn out, there is something about the pastor being available, or present, or caring for, our fearfully and wonderfully made folk.
And we aren’t always. Every time I drop the pastoral care ball, I lose sleep, and the Tums rest on the bedside table for a while. I hate letting people down, and I do it, and so there’s some therapy in my future, I think. And I wonder what role grace plays in all of that.
Do I have enough grace to rejoice that someone delights in riding the Darth Vader/Bagpiper unicycle?
Do I have enough grace with myself not to wallow in my regret and self-judgment?
Am I holding out grace as the tie that binds the fearfully and wonderfully made community together? Do I teach that, and do I practice that?
It takes grace to ride a unicycle, and to play the bagpipe. I’m not sure I would say that grace is needed to wear a Darth Vader mask in public – courage, maybe, or divine foolishness. I think there was some grace involved in our creation, too – fearfully and wonderfully and gracefully made. Amen to that.