Ever coach? Quite a few years ago I was “drafted” to coach high school girls basketball. Experience? Played a little. Love the game. Still play on occasion. Maybe the Superintendent thought I possessed the right temperament. He did not see my mentor grab me around the neck years before informing me, “I will be the only one getting technical fouls here.” I was the “youth pastor.”
Years later I reflect on that experience. We won our district. We went on to get impaled by a well-oiled machine. We could do nothing to stop the onslaught. Our little band of freshmen and a couple of upperclassmen could not hold up under the barrage. I learned some things about life. I learned some things about the life of a coach.
Only a couple of times have I spoken at a School Board Meeting. On each occasion I remarked the job was thankless. Everyone in the stands can do better. Talent is really not a requisite, “My child will be the next (fill in your favorite hoop star here).” Aside from the fact that basketball takes both talent and sense, every parent believes the next all everything lives in a room in their house. I think my favorite line used was to assert, “I share the experience of a coach, everyone is an expert in my field.” I recently learned a couple of our local coaches will be opting for other vocations. Pressured? Likely.
It is hard for me to be critical of a coach having shared the “inside.” Sure, coaching is about proverbial “x’s” and “o’s.” But coaching is about much more. Sometimes coaches must not only advocate for their players, they must also be critical. The line is fine between the two. Walking that edge is a must.
Pastoring presents the same vocational setting. We advocate for members. We must also be critical from time to time. Some may object to the word critical and replace it with perceptions of judgmental. Really the better word may be critique. We must make honest assessments. On larger scales we must look at how things are or are not working with eyes intent to honesty lest we break the 9th commandment on ourself, and yes even our church. And let’s don’t begin considering our denomination.
Father Rohr helps when he writes,
All of these situations [Jesus wanted searchers more than settlers, prophets more than priests, honest journeys more than gatherings of the so called healthy. He had been taught well by his own Jewish exodus and exile.] are describing the unique and rare position of Biblical prophet – he or she is always on the edge of the inside. Not an outsider throwing rocks, not a comfortable insider who defends the status quo, but one who lives precariously with two perspectives held tightly together – faithful insider and the critical outsider at the same time. Not ensconced safely inside, but not so far outside as to lose compassion and understanding. Like a carpenter’s level, the prophet has to balance the small bubble in the glass between here and there, between yes and no, between loyalty and critique. The prophet must hold these perspectives in a loving and necessary creative tension.
Today it is very difficult to walk that line be you a coach, a parent or a pastor. Too much leaning one direction and the prophetic is jeopardized. Misunderstanding abounds. We live between the tensions of, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say it,” and answering the question, “Do I look good in this dress?” One binds us with silence and the other promotes deceit.
I have made criticisms of “old patterns.” Some have construed this as the pastor has come to some new enlightened position. And accompanying sentiment becomes, “We cannot follow for God has not told us.” I contribute to a blog which people misunderstand the same calls for accountability. Often I and others are told it better to just leave. However, the call is to abide both places – inside and outside – at least for me.
Father Rohr closes his article,
These prophets critiqued Christianity by the very values that they learned from Christianity. Everyone one of these men and women was marginalized, fought, excluded, persecuted, or even killed by the illusions they exposed and the systems they tried to reform. It is the structural fate of the prophet. You can only truly unlock systems from within, but then you are invariably locked out.
When you live on the edge of the inside, you will almost wish you were outside. Then you are merely and enemy, a pagan, a persona non grata, and can be largely ignored or written off. But if you are both inside and outside, you are the ultimate threat, the ultimate reformer, and the ultimate invitation.
My choice of the title for this blog reflects a growing self-awareness of the need and value for the prophetic position helping people understand exodus and exile, grace and mercy, love and forgiveness, and yes, the inside and the outside.
Thanks for reading.