Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Melon Collie

Sitting in front of my fireplace today (yes, of course it had a fire in it. It's December ya know,) I had just finished an extended time alone with God. I didn't know what to do next as I had already been to the mall and polished off my Christmas shopping. So I tried to come up with a good word or term that would cover all of the bases on what my brain and body are saying to me of late. I thought I had the perfect one picked out. Then I was not so sure.

The chosen word is "melancholy." I have always wondered about that word. First of all I had it all misspelled in my head. I thought it was like "melon" and "collie." Yes, I realize that this is weird but I pictured this big long haired dog with a head like a cantelope, a body like a watermelon, and legs like some strange gourds. This would not be a fast dog but then you would not expect him to be fast if he were feeling meloncollie. I mean melancholy.

Just look at that word. MelancHOLY. I don't sense anything more holy about that particular feeling than I sense anything doggie-ish about it. It's just a word that doesn't seem to accomplish much. So I decided to look it up. That was not easily done seeing as how my spelling was all screwed up. But I kept playing with my mac's "widget" dictionary until I hit upon the right combination. Turns out that I didn't know what melancholy means after all.

"Mel*an*chol*y: Noun: A deep, pensive, and long lasting sadness. Adjective: Sad, gloomy, or depressed."

Drat. Now I had to look up "pensive."

"Pen*sive: Adjective: Engaged in, involved in, or reflecting deep or serious thought."

I didn't know it was going to be this complicated. I almost decided to settle for sleepy, tired, semi-light headed and dizzy, deeply weary, or even relaxed yet exhausted. All of those fit pretty well. The last time I got smacked by this adrenaline exhaustion crud it stayed pretty much in the acute stage for 7 full months and hung around for a full year. This time my doctor told me to quit or it would likely finish me off eventually. (I did not ask him specifically what "finish" was meant to imply. Why ask what you don't want to know?) The last few weeks of rest seems to have broken its back this time but it is not vanishing into thin air just yet.

Anyway, back to the point. I kept feeling called back to melancholy. So the first thing I did was to toss out the last two thirds of the adjective thing. I've never felt LESS gloomy or depressed. I had to keep the "sad" in because it was listed under the whole noun thing too.

"A deep, pensive, and long lasting sadness." I thought I ought to chew on it for a few hours.

In the meantime Debbie came home and we had a split vote on what to eat for supper. I nixed her idea of cooking because I was feeling too lazy to help and too guilty to let her do it alone. I offered up the suggestion of a local barbeque place. She took me up on it. So we got in the Explorer and i drove to a Chinese place. She looked at me really funny as I parked but, hey, it was a buffet so who is going to argue with that? She's no dummy.

After eating wahn lahn poo or something like that we went to the mall. It was one of those in and out trips. Debbie went to some girl store and I, being the Man of God that I am, went to the Family Christian Store. About ten feet from the entrance was where it happened.

"It" was three high school girls. I did not know them. But they had these bright eyes. They were smiling and laughing. Having fun. As I passed them they probably thought I was "one of those guys" because I just stared at them. It was their eyes. There was life in them. I looked around at the adults like me and our eyes are either darting around trying to figure out which way to go next or staring down at the floor in deep thought about difficult issues. But not these girls. Their eyes danced. When I saw them I felt a a hand grenade go off in my heart.

That is when I knew what I felt. Melancholy. A deep, pensive, and long lasting sadness. I miss a whole bunch of teenagers. "My kids." I miss Rachel who I always called Sarah and I miss Sarah who I always called Rachel. I miss Casey because he liked to hug me and it was a real hug that meant that I mattered to him. I miss Deano and his laugh and his smile. I miss Hannah and the way that she always looked at me like I was an idiot (that would have offended me except I realized that she was right.) I miss Hillary because, well, because she's Hillary. I miss Chelsea because she was about the only teenager that consistently called me "Pastor Ron." Actually, I think she was the only one that realized that I am a pastor. Ok, not really. But they never treated me in that high and holy way. They let me be old and gray haired and much slower in JPL than they were because they knew I had my physical pedal to the metal and they were good with that. I could go on. And on. And on. And on. I miss them all. Every one of them.

I do not miss meetings. I do not miss purchase orders. I do not miss schedules. I miss them. I miss loving them, helping them, encouraging them, teaching them and just being with them.

God created me to be a youth pastor. He let me do it for a really long time. I know that I will never get over it. I do not want to get over it. I did it for 32 years and that is considered a career. In the military I would have a really sweet pension if I had given them 32 years. And now two of my three kids work with teenagers and the other works with preschoolers. My brother was a youth pastor. It is in our blood line. Our genes. There has not been one day since 1973 that one of my immediate family members was not a youth pastor. We've overlapped each other a few times but never has there been a day since I was in high school (my brother graduated first and went right into youth ministry) that one of us was not in youth ministry.

I spoke at the National Youth Workers Convention last month. The youth pastor's in the room were very attentive and absorbed in our topic. Then somebody asked how long I had been doing youth ministry. I told them. Expressions changed. NOBODY lasts 32 years. But there is a secret. I quit just about every Monday. I wrote more letters of resignation than you would believe. I just never turned them in until last month. Lasting 32 years was not a me thing at all. It was a calling ... a gift from God.

And now it is over and I am looking at an entirely different type of ministry. And as much as I am looking forward to it I just have to admit something. Leaving youth ministry was exactly what God directed me to do. I was obedient. And now? Now I am feeling very, very ... melancholy.


Anonymous said...

Strange but understandable much like you