Saturday, April 6, 2013

No Charmed Lives

The temptation to think that others lead charmed lives -- lives free of worry, stress, or failure -- presents itself all too easily. I wish that clergy were immune, but we're not. Those serving in small parishes can be envious of those serving in larger ones that are experiencing substantial growth and, as in other places where jealousy rears it's ugly head there's nearly always someone whose parish is bigger and/or growing faster than yours (just as there's always someone who is richer, more successful, and has more toys). Among clergy and among churches there are few more prominent or larger than the Rev'd Dr. Rick Warren and Saddleback Church in Orange County, California. Beginning with 200 people (a crowd for which many of us would be thankful) in 1980 it grew to more than 22,000 in weekly attendance in the following three decades while launching a global AIDS ministry, planting new churches, and spawning a number of Purpose Driven books.

I had heard of Rick Warren, read some of his work, and seen him on television in 2009. I knew that he'd given the invocation at the Inauguration of Barack Obama, something that had raised the hackles of some on both the right and the left, and shortly thereafter learned that he was to speak at the Inaugural Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America in Bedford, Texas. Although I was not one of the delegates from my diocese, it was an historic even for which I wanted to be present so I went at my own expense as an observer. There was some grumbling when it was announced that Dr. Warren would be speaking (I admit to being one of the grumblers) but when he gave his address in a massive air-conditioned tent on sweltering hot Texas day I and most others in attendance were favorably impressed. Since that time I've followed him on Twitter and appreciated his insights, realizing that while he and I don't quite do church the same way (I'm, uh, a little more formal and traditional) we worship the same Lord and I wish that I would have a fraction of his humility and devotion to Christ.

But yet, not even Rick Warren lived a charmed life, free of troubles. His son, Matthew, struggled with depression for years and today took his own life. Obviously he, his wife Kay, and the rest of their family need prayers at this time and they have them. I trust that the church that he's pastored will pastor him and them in these trying days. 

It has been my privilege to get to know some other very successful people -- men and women who have excelled in their fields and, in many cases have amassed great riches. As I have gotten to know them and count many of them as friends I've often learned of great tragedies, losses, and failures that they've experienced. The Tenth Commandment guards against jealousy and covetousness and  we need that warning -- as much as we'd like to think so, no one leads a life free from pain and those experiences are the crucibles that forge us, grow us, and (for those who are Christians) fit us for God's Kingdom.