Monday, March 12, 2007

Snow Crevasse

As I lie in bed tonight, I had a memory of my college days when a bunch of guys got together to go skiing. Crested Butte had offered a free day for Western State students so it was the perfect opportunity for those of us who were neither good skiers nor interested in pushing the edge of the envelop.

Not being a skier, I had borrowed some equipment for the day. In addition to my rented skis and polls, I had a pair of goggle that didn't quite work right. I made them work for the better part of the day, but on one rather long run, I can remember them fogging up a bit. Perhaps I had a little snow on the inside of them. I don't remember exactly what the issue was, but the bottom half of each lens had fogged over. But since the group was moving, I chose to wait to clean them off. That was a mistake.

On this particular run there were 4 or 5 of us skiing together. I was skiing toward the front of the pack just behind one of my friends. Through my half fogged glasses, I saw him pull to the side of the groomed slope and stop, I assumed to wait for the others. This would be a good opportunity for me to clean my lenses, so I made a broad turn to stop next to him. And I would have too, but I didn't notice that he stopped as a point right next to a 10 drop into a crevasse, and the crevasse wasn't perfectly parallel to the ski run. I jotted out a bit, and I fell straight in; down ten feet into many multiple feet of soft powder.

Of course, the landing was soft and I wasn't the least bit hurt. But I was stuck. After step I made into the snow pulled powder down on top of me. Every time I reached up, the powder collapsed and I end up in the same spot, on the bottom of the stream bed.

Since I was 19 and a college student, and my friends were all in the same situation, this memory is a good one. I can remember laughing hysterically as I worked to make it out of the hole. I can remember my friends (now all 4 or 5 of them) looking down on me and getting the biggest kick out of my situation. In a way it was a blast. Although slightly embarrassed, I didn't mind their cracks and laughter, because it was a funny situation. Still, as I stood at the bottom, there was a growing urgency in my mind about getting out of this pit. I was stuck, and nothing I could do was working.

It took a few minutes, I can't really say how long, but the guys up top eventually made a chain and worked together to get me out. I can tell you, I was never more happy to be the point of so many jokes.

Why was I thinking of this story? Because in many ways, I feel like I'm at the bottom of that crevasse again. I'm having a good time and the people I'm with are enjoying the situation. I'm not saying people are laughing at me, but they are enjoying benefit from my predicament none the less. I'm not in physical peril, not stuck physically, and not here because of clumsy skiing, but I am beginning to wonder if I'm not stuck because of poor vision.

See, I'm in a ministry that in many ways I love. I work with children and I love the children. I'm good with children and they like me back. If I have a problem with this ministry, it is that they job has grown to a point where I can't do it alone, but few will join me as I need them to join me. Some have even gone so far as to say they can't join me because they don't think they can do the job in the same way that I do it.

I'm climbing, but with each step up, the powdery ground collapses and leaves me back where I started. I've added a lot of staff to my programs. Many quality people have joined in that matter, but every year I'm a few short of what the volunteers need to feel they are effective. So, at the end of a term, I have great turnover.

I've added a great program format that could be effective at reaching the children. But, every year, because most of my volunteers were raised in the old style Sunday School, I get pressure to redesign the program to match what they grew up with.

I'm climbing, but I can't reach the top. Because of my personality and popularity with the children, I've noticed more and more that the adults don't take me seriously as a trained and ordained pastor. In 10 years as a pastor, I've average fewer than 1 or 2 people coming to me seeking input on leadership issue. I counsel formally only about 2 people per year. I have baptized a good number of children, but only 3 people older than 12, including a good friend who didn't even think that it might be part of my ministry and desire to baptize him. I've performed 0 funeral and 0 wedding which leaves this 10 year veteran in the ministry with no experience in special services. Of course, I'm not too excited about doing either weddings or funerals, but there is an expectation that pastors do both. Beyond that, I've only lead one service on Sunday morning, but that wasn't even called preaching. It was the "Children's Ministry Focus Sunday" and I was just giving little thoughts for people to think about.

Rather than going on and seeming gloomier than I am. I'll stop. In fact, in general, I'm not gloomy about my ministry. I feel quite happy most days and I think I've help others to feel welcome and joyful on many occasions. My issue isn't gloominess. It is feeling like my situation will ever change. I'm stuck in a hole, digging to climb out, and going nowhere fast. And even though I enjoy my work, I'm beginning to feel a little weary and anxious about what it is going to take for me to get me out of the crevasse.