I’ve Been “Benched”
March 20, 2018
by Carroll Harris
“’tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free, ‘tis a gift to come down where I ought to be. And when I am in the place just right, I will be in the valley of love and delight. When true simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend I will not be ashamed. To turn, turn, will be my delight, ‘til turning, turning, I come ‘round right.”
It’s funny how God works. Maybe it would be more appropriate to say be careful what you pray for. I had been praying for a pathway to have “less on my plate”. I wear so many hats between multiple ministry roles, supporting my husband’s ministry, family, marriage, and volunteering at school. I sometimes feel like I am chasing my tail and spinning my wheels on all cylinders. In July we moved to a new appointment and suddenly the prayer for a pathway to do less happened and it felt weird.
I thought I would feel relief, but instead I think I actually started to grieve. No, it wasn’t grief. It was annoyance. I felt annoyed that God decided to “bench” me. The great people of this new church had no need for me. I wasn’t needed to direct the choir, run the youth ministry, start an afterschool program that incorporated preschoolers, or start a Girl Scout troop. I have been benched and relegated to being just the Pastor’s wife who has a position within the conference and district that people don’t fully “get”. To be honest, I’ve never been a great Pastor’s wife.
Don’t get me wrong, there was some relief too. I appreciated not having the responsibility of having weekly rehearsals. I have appreciated being able to send my kids out the door and get myself to church on my own schedule, which usually means I’m late. But I have still been very annoyed. I admit it. That’s not the right frame of mind for worship, trust me.
But something happened in the last couple of weeks. An old friend called me out of the blue. He heard a song we used to sing together and thought of me. He has experienced a very similar situation. Without knowing it, that conversation was the beginning of several days of God putting things back into perspective. First, my friend didn’t say anything earth shattering. Just how his own daughter told him he needed to snap out of his funk. That worship and his relationship with God didn’t depend on people or the things he “did”. Basically, his focus was in the wrong place. Both of us laughed and said the equivalent of “duh”! Then we marveled in how our children seem to be the ones who lead us many times.
Next, it was a series of impressions put into my heart through an episode of Marvel’s Agents of Shield (because why wouldn’t God use pop culture to impress things upon us?) and the Fresh Expressions National Gathering. The message was all about symbols and institutions and their importance. According to Phil Coulson from Agents of Shield, symbols and institutions are, in fact important. They are the foundation of what gives meaning to and explains why we do the things we do. A Fresh Expressions speaker also encouraged the importance of institution but encouraged wisdom. Encouraged us to know the difference between letting the institution drive us for the sake of being an institution or allowing the institution to what it was created to do. The institution was created to support and lift up the ever changing “why” we do what we do.
Finally, I have been very intentionally choosing to go to the smaller and less attended traditional service since we landed at this new church. I haven’t been able to explain it, but I have been feeling drawn there. There’s nothing special about it. It’s exactly what you imagine a traditional service to be. As I was sitting there this time, all of a sudden I felt this realization hit me. Actually, it was God putting in my heart that I needed to get back to the basics. That I needed to be still. That I wasn’t being “benched”. I was actually getting what I had prayed for! I was receiving the rest and the time to listen to where God wants and needs me to be. I need to be present, stop whining, and just “be”. I need to pay attention again to the symbols and the simplicity of our faith. I need to soak in this time of respite and listen for God in the silence and the wind.
I have decided, because you know your attitude is a choice, that I will no longer feel “benched by God”. I will enjoy these moments of tradition and this symbolic season in our faith tradition. I will embrace these final days of Lent. I will continue to reconnect and get back to basics which definitely includes the hymns that have always spoken to my heart. I’m even saying yes to the opportunity to join our organist for a duet on Easter Sunday. I think that’s okay. I will just continue my journey of not being benched but spending time just being present and paying attention. I will “be still and know He is God” (Psalm 46:10). And, believe it or not, I am continuing my prayer for pathways to have less on my plate so I can be even more intentional moving forward.
I wonder what I will be “benched” from next!
Carroll Harris is the church vitality strategist in the Uwharrie District, and works as the coordinator of camping and outdoor ministries for the conference.