Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Learning from chagrin

Yesterday one of God's children called me. I wasn't in the office, but got the message by email. I called her back to see what she wanted. After pleasantries, there was a long silence. Then it went like this:

Me: You called me?
God's child: Yes.
Me: What can I help you with?
God's child: Well, I'm out of (physical) rehab and I wanted to be put on the prayer chain. I called the office; you were gone last week?
Me: I was gone the first half of the week, and I'm finally caught up (laughing).
God's child: Oh (not laughing, realizing I'd been back a number of days).
Me: Did I neglect you? Do you feel neglected?
God's child: Yes. Yes I do.
Me: I'm so sorry. When we spoke two weeks ago you said you were doing fine, and since I didn't hear from you I figured everything was okay.
God's child: Well, every other minister I've had just called.
Me: (deeply chagrined and chastened) I'm really so very sorry. I'll call later this week. I'll make myself a pest.
God's child: (laughing a tiny little bit) That would be fine. If you can find us between doctors' appointments!

That was yesterday afternoon. I cannot stop thinking about it, and my internal dialog runs from shame to justification to realization-about-everyone-else-I've-neglected to figuring out why I don't call easily. No pastor has ever called me, so I've no models of that. I grew up with privacy: no dropping in, don't ask to be invited, etc. And I do have a fear that I'll call and be rejected. Then there's the "I have other work to do, other people who are actually dying to visit, sermons to write, budgets to produce, scripture to read" stuff.

Bottom line: She is a child of God, and I am her sister in Christ. I should have called sooner. Period. Especially since I'm trying to teach everyone else in our church to do just that.

So, Child of God, if you're reading this, thanks for the chastening. I'll talk with you tomorrow.


Mrs. M said...

Hm. I'm just an amateur, but it seems to me that if someone says they're fine, there's no need to beat yourself up for believing them. It also sounds to me like calling was what this particular woman wanted, but that might not have been the case for everyone. In another instance, you might have been told that you were invading privacy. No way to be "right" all the time. Good job loving your people in the midst of misunderstanding.

will smama said...

The justification paragraph you wrote sounded like my voice!

It certainly is a tough balance. God bless the parishioner who lets us know what they need.

Anonymous said...

When I went to go visit an old family friend in the hospital in Good Sam, I literally almost ran into you Elaine. That to me was big. Don't be too hard on yourself. -Melissa Hastings