I'm a priest, and I love my job. In fact, I can't imagine myself being anything else other than a priest in the Episcopal church. I get to write, learn, teach, talk, celebrate Eucharist, baptize, marry, listen, laugh, strategize, preach, pray, sing, dream, solve problems, share meals and cups of coffee, and read my favorite book. I love these things; I also do things I don't particularly love to do, but I understand that they are part and parcel to the work.
And while not all of this comes easily, everything I've mentioned here is something that can be done. You can learn to do almost anything, even if it turns out you aren't particularly good at it. We all can't be good at everything, that's why we need each other, I get it. The hardest part of my job though, the one that keeps me up at night, the one that makes me feel like a colossal failure, is not anything that has to do with doing, but rather with being.
In the last two weeks, I've been having a series of really hard conversations. The kind of conversations where there's nothing really to say, nothing to do, nothing to offer. The kind of conversations that are about true injustice in the world, about the death of immediate family members, about ruined hopes, about utterly justified fears. These conversations are raw with emotion, and raw with hard truth. Together, we stare at the ugliness.
I won't tell them it will be all right, because often, it won't be. I won't tell them that when they get to the other side, they'll be stronger, better, transformed, because I don't know that. I won't tell them that "God won't give them more than they can handle" because that's bullshit. First of all, did God really make that happen? Really? and secondly, I've seen people break. That platitude is just not true. In the moment, sitting with them in the church, or on a late night phone call, the only thing I can do is be. More specifically, be with them. Be with them, and promise that right now, the God who suffered knows, and is suffering with them. Small comfort in the face of such big tragedy. But it's all I've got.
Honestly, it sucks. It makes me feel helpless. But I wouldn't be anywhere else.