One of the things that makes my job as a pastor interesting and difficult is memory. My wife tells me I remember what I want to remember. That’s one way of saying I forget what serves me. And she’s mostly right.
Then there is the nagging memory which stays somewhere inside me when it comes to the people I serve. Nagging is not bad. It’s the best word I can think of to describe the decoration inside my mind or my heart that brings things up about people who I’ve lived with in a faith community. It’s the image or the word or the phrase that captures something a person shared with me that never left.
It’s makes ministry interesting, memories. I’m compiling a kind of interior list, these days attaching words and conversations to months. I don’t attach every thing to a month. There are too many things on too many days. I can’t affix every pastoral chat to a month. In it would be that evening I was told by a young man how he once attempted to take his life, all those individual meetings where I became “the first to know” this or that, the hard work a person was doing to forgive deep wrongs. The slew on that soul list of conversation topics is a whole series of blog posts on its own.
But for the months, I’m learning to see the introduction of a new month as the introduction of something old. There’s September, which was really the first month I started tracking these pastoral memories, after I joined the staff at New Community. Then there was April and August which got added last year. January got added as well. October is there too.
Memory is troublesome and life-giving. It’s motivating and sobering. It’s heavy and uplifting. It’s the best and hardest tool I use in my work as a church leader. It’s in the writing too, particularly the historical fiction I secretly work on. Holding the past, honoring it, and being a part of its redemption depletes and replenishes.