Friday, January 25, 2019

Other people’s crosses usually minor - compared to mine. . .

A while back somebody forwarded a rant from an individual whose complaint was that their pastor did not answer his cell phone and did not return email promptly.  The complainer indicated that this was a minor cross to be -- among the crosses born by pastors -- and the pastor had a duty to carry and answer his cell phone and return emails right away!  Ouch!  It could have been written by a member of my parish.  After all, I do not live on my cell phone and I do not check my email every minute of the day.  I have a so-called smart phone but the person who has it is not that smart and does not want to live on a smart phone.  That said, there is something here worth noting.

A million years ago, when colleges were first invented and I, the first in my family, went to college, my parents loaded up my stuff, drove me there, unpacked my room, handed me a $20 for emergencies, and told me not to call unless it was an emergency (since long distance was expensive).  In contrast, when my kids went to school, they had cell phones and called and texted our family constantly.  Some might see this as progress but I am not so sure.  Constant access is not necessarily progress and it leads to some unfounded suppositions.

One is that everything you think needs to be phoned to someone, texted to someone, posted to social media, etc...  You might think that this is a strange thing for somebody who has a daily blog to say but not everything you might think is worthy of sharing.  But because we can, we do.  Therein lies some of the problems with our less than social media and our constant need to vent.

Another is that everything that happens needs support or help from others for you to get through it.  I managed to go to college, work part-time, have some fun, and the like without phoning my parents about it.  I managed to study for exams, write papers, deal with unpleasant professors, and deal with the angst of peers and the opposite sex without phoning mom or dad or texting them or turning my exploits into digital stories to be shared.  And I was the least exceptional person I knew (and know).  I am, above all things, average.  Why is it that suddenly everything has become a crisis and every crisis needs to be shared, the aid and succor of friends and family to get through it, and somewhere to unload about having to go through it all?

Is it because in the end, other people's crosses are considered minor compared to our own?  Could it be that we suffer from a syndrome of having the worst of it all while others we know and strangers on the street have gotten off much more easily than we have?  The insistence that what a person is feeling or what that person is thinking or whatever frustration that person is enduring is worse than anyone else has a name.  It is narcissism.  Narcissism has a source.  It is original sin.  Not only our hearts are curved in on themselves, so are the minds and everything else about us.  We have suffered more than others, have heavier burdens than others, are persecuted worse than others, and are smarter than others (and more interesting, I might add) because we are consumed by ourselves.  While the technology of the past may have prevented this from being quite so obvious, we have exploited our technology in large measure to reveal just how consumed we are with ourselves and how much we need others to know what we are thinking, feeling, hurting, or suffering.  It is a truly narcissistic thing to believe that the crosses borne by others are minor compared to the ones we bear.

Once I visited a aged woman in a nursing home, a survivor of World War II (from the German side), and a rather bitter individual.  She was complaining to me about how bad she had suffered in her life and I was mostly silent but I did interject that all our sufferings pale in comparison to the suffering love endured for us when Jesus died on the cross.  "Pastor," she said, "Jesus never suffered like I have!"  I guess that says it all. . .

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During the early 1980's the Board of Elders of a neighboring
LCMS parish demanded that their pastor have a pager on his
person at all times. The Elders wanted their pastor to be
available at all times for any emergency. They perhaps thought
the pastor was not making enough hospital calls on his members
in a 900 member congregation.

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