The church my grandmother attended was assigned a new pastor every few years—the common procedure for that denomination. They went through more than one pastor who was not the best suited for the job. In fact, I believe there were at least two in a row who presented some real challenges to that church community. Grandmother kept going to church faithfully and continued serving in several capacities. She was not one to start a campaign against a pastor or badmouth him/her in a public way, but in more personal conversations with people she would make her opinions known.
During one such conversation, a friend asked her, “Well, if you don’t like the pastor, why don’t you just leave—go to another church?”
Grandmother’s reply: “I was here long before this pastor came, and I’ll be here long after he’s gone. It’s my church—why should I be the one to leave?”
I’m not far from the age Grandmother was when she said that, and I have belonged to more than one church because I’ve lived in more than one place. Also, my theology has changed. But I hang on to that wisdom about “staying put” in a faith community. It’s something like staying put in a marriage or in any other commitment. Sometimes the deepest joys, lessons, and transformations happen only after we’ve been willing to stay through the hurtful, confusing, maddening times.
Am I willing to stay? Do I dare say, “This is my community. This is my family. This is my home.”? Grandmother grew a lot of flowers. She understood that you had to care for the roots, allow them to reach down and take hold.
I know that sometimes commitments must be broken—for the sake of everyone’s welfare. But more often commitments are meant to shape and strengthen us, to enhance our identity and give us a long and colorful story.