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
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.
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