Sunday, December 03, 2006

where, o death, is your victory?

i really don’t know how to talk about these things, so i’m just going to spew them out.

by almost all measures, this has been an absolutely horrible year. in january, i lost a job that i had just started to enjoy after almost six years of meaningless toil. unsurprisingly, that dismissal led to a depression the likes of which i had not experienced since ’95 or ’96. ultimately, my fear of being unemployed led me to accept a job that was not challenging and did not utilize my capabilities. and, to top it off, i lost my loser job the week of thanksgiving when my former, trite giftware company was acquired by a company that peddles even more useless tripe than we did.

moreover, although i’ve always been a little relationally inept, i have never felt as relationally retarded* as i do right now. throughout this year a number of my family and friends have slogged through valleys of unmentionable pain and i have not known how to support them. i haven’t abandoned my dear ones, but i have had little more to offer than a willingness to walk beside them through their personal hells. the combination of my inability to effectively support my friends with my occupational ineptitude eventually led me towards a psychologist’s couch where i have graciously and carefully been encouraged to visit the dark corners of my heart where i have always loathed to tread and confront the fact that though i am surrounded by supporting family and unsurpassed community i continually choose to live as an exile** in the illusory comfort of the margins.

in addition to my occupational and relational issues, i am as confident in my vocation as i am utterly unable to fulfill it. this year has also burdened the sinners and saints community with a number of difficult transitions, convoluted conflicts and missional uncertainties. in the midst of such chaotic times i have not provided clear leadership nor even had a clear picture of what such leadership might be. the only things i have been able to provide are regular teachings on the gospels of luke and occasional glimpses into a soul that is currently being reconstructed. what is more, for some unknown reason in the midst of such ineptitude i have stumbled into a couple of other opportunities to lead and serve. these latter opportunities are at least as horrifying as they are encouraging.

and yet, in the midst of all of this i realize that i am growing in wisdom, stature and favor with God and man at a rate that i have not for almost a decade. in the midst of my ineptitude, i am more in love with God and invested in the incarnational mission of Christ than i have ever been. ironically, the realization of my relational retardation has not alienated me from others but has bound me more tightly to them. it is as though God is simultaneously separating the strands of our lives so that He can weave us together into a basket that can receive, display and serve his beauty, goodness and truth to others. lastly, i have not lamented the loss of my latest job for one moment, but am leaning into the more useful, if not meaningful, employ that God will provide.

there is no doubt that this has been a horrible year indeed. but, in the end, i cannot thank either the Creator or those who have endured it by my side enough for it.

* i usually hate this word and would never use it to refer to people who have significant birth defects, mental and/or physical disabilities. but, for some reason, that is the only word that adequately describes my self-assessment in this area. thus, i do not use this term lightly.

** which is, i suspect, the reason that i am completely in love with the person of Jesus. but that’s a story for another day.


g13 said...

of course, in the midst of apparent death there were other signs of life as well. such signs include: kellie's pregnancy - we're expecting Preston Alan James to arrive sometime in April, a few remarkable additions to the s & s community, the cardinals winning their first world series in 24 years, the arrival of new christian communities and subsequent developments of unexpected friendships in the greater boston area, the remarkably beautiful ministries and work of former s & s members throughout the country, the wonderful irony of former enemies becoming fast friends and the recent repudiation of the "republican revolution" and resignation of donald rumsfeld.

Anonymous said...

Your lousy year is identical to my lousy year. And like your pregnancy, our daughter was born healthy in July.

Like you, I can 'walk' with you, I guess.

Thanks for sharing.

james said...

Indeed, thanks for sharing this gentry. Just want to reassure you that despite your "relational retardation" you've never shown a bit of contempt toward this fellow, and despite the numerous downers I can say you've certainly shown quite a bit of love toward myself and the mrs.

We definitely are very thankful for the person of mr. gentry.

Mike said...

i dono. wouldn't one find that retardation is exactly the correct clinical term to use to describe the relational issues you have mentioned? i guess i don't really know because i am not a clinical anything.

you know, it struck me to the heart to read that you see that you are "growing in wisdom, stature and favor with God and man at a rate that i have not for almost a decade. in the midst of my ineptitude, i am more in love with God and invested in the incarnational mission of Christ than i have ever been."

it stung me because i haven't seen that in myself in ages and i am not sure that i could if i were in your shoes. not that you are not growing but rather, i tend to only see the bad and not the good.

g13 said...

hey fletchie,

as you well know, i usually share your pessimism. i guess God has just beat me into a place of submission where i have no choice but to be dependent upon Him (and apparently subject to his every whim).

i suspect that uncle rich was right when he warned us that we'll "meet Him in the furnace a long time 'fore you meet him in the sky."

i hate surrendering to cliche, but there you go.

jackaway said...

hey man, i love you dude. you rock in my book. i know life can be shitty at times and i appreciate your friendship in my life over the past year. i miss you man and wish i was out there now to tell you all of this to your face man. i really respect you and what you are doing out there in your community. it is very inspiring to me as someone looking in. i love you dude.

Joshua Ramos said...

May I as well join in this paean. Thank you Jeff for the open house, the open table, and the opened door for the "third floor".

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post; much of what you wrote mirrors some of my own experience during a very difficult time of life.

Anonymous said...

I affirm your right to have the feelings you have, but as far as meeting new people and beginning new friendships, I have not found you to be relationlly retarded at all. I have really enjoyed getting to know you.