Hallelujahs and heartaches, too

Kyle Childress: Quarter century and counting

by Ken Sehested

What a day! What a day! Not to mention a year, twenty-five
of them piled head-to-toe, some of them a bit fuzzy now
                  (thank God!),
others like constellations whose radiance
         still guides during dark nights of the soul.
Little did you know, a quarter-century ago,
         what your profession would involve,
where your convictions would take you,
                  the joys then unimaginable,
         the sorrows ruthless beyond belief.
         And the "ordinary" days, the days
                  for which songs are never composed,
                  for which cakes are never baked,
                  for which poems are never rhymed
                  nor hymns inspired,
for which hardly anyone but the Beloved (Above you)
         and your beloved (beside you) took note.

Scores upon scores of hallelujahs and heartaches, too.
         Cares that kept you up at night
         and joys that set you moving
                  at the first sight of dawn’s light.

If you could have known then what you know now,
would you have allowed those installation words
         to be spoken in your ears,
         those welcoming handshakes
         to bind you flesh to flesh?
Would you, instead, have run
         screaming from the sanctuary,
         faster than Jonah in a speed boat,
        further than Tarshish multiplied many times over?
Bemoaning the day of your birth,
         more bitterly than Jeremiah?
         Cursing God more boldly than Job,
         demanding a grand jury indictment of the Most High?

Might you have sought an easier Gospel to declare—
         a compliant, more digestible announcement,
                  something less thorny,
                           less disturbing to patrons,
                           something more likely to win friends
                  and salutations from chambers of commerce?
How many times have you been tempted to soften the
         Word, to something like:

      thus recommendeth the Lord?

Would you have preferred a cool breeze and votive candle
         to Pentecost’s raging wind
                  and flaming tongues of fire?
                           Maybe a luxury hotel room
                                   to the Nativity’s barn-yard stable?

Did another life, away from East Texas sweat, tempt you?
A more pedigreed station, greater notoriety,
         and better access to a major airport?
                  A city whose name everyone can pronounce?

Wouldn’t it all have been easier if Jesus had
         turned those rocks to bread.
        Or cut a deal with the devil
                  in order to accomplish salvation’s end?
Or to undertake a few magical feats
         to pack the sanctuary and grow the budget?
                  What harm could that have done?

                                                But, no. Nooooo.
You knew, down in your toes if not in your head,
        there is no skipping from the crib
                 to the cross
                 to the Crown of Glory.
         No shortcuts to bypass those ordinary days.
         No passing the cup of those agonizing experiences.
         No surge protection against joy’s electrifying arc.

For there is no ordinary in ordination’s destination.
        In this bondage, and this alone,
                  does freedom break out.
         In this submission, does liberty emerge.
         In such precarious life does restlessness
         encounter the peace that passes all understanding.

Be still. Fear not. The Promise endures, even
         on those days when
         you think your work’s in vain.
                 Live large, my friend.
                           Laugh often,
                                   and love well.

On the twenty-fifth anniversary of Kyle Childress’ pastorate at Austin Heights Baptist Church, Nacogdoches, Texas, 8 February 2015. ©Ken Sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org