Monday, October 7, 2019

Assessing Grit. . .

The hidden ingredient to "success" is one thing impossible to predict or measure.  When I as a pastor stand before a bride and groom ready to pledge themselves to each other before God's altar, I can offer them preparation for those promises, an idea of what their marriage should look like, an outline of the challenges they might face, how important forgiveness is to the exercise of love, and God's blessing upon their life together, but I cannot tell them I know how their marriage will endure or whether it will be, as odd as the terms is, "successful."  I have seen couples who should have had everything going for them struggle and even fail at this relationship.  I have seen couple who had little going for them flourish and their marriages last over the long haul.  So what is the secret?  Determination.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that determination is something difficult or even impossible for pastor to discern or judge in a couple.  Those whose marriage survived and flourished had great determination to make this relationship work and "succeed."  I only wish I could have looked into the hearts of these couples to see if this determination was there but only God can see this.  What I can do is offer them the tools to help them weather the storms they will certainly face in their life together -- the love of Christ, forgiveness asked and given, shared devotion and life from the Word of God and the Table of the Lord, and some counsel from the wisdom of experience.  Ultimately pastors and the church family, along with their own families and friends, can help greatly but the determination of that couple -- both of them --- is the key to their happy endurance.

Interestingly, the same can be said of pastors.  When the Church lays hands on them, the Church can attest to their education, training, character, reputation, and call, but no one knows whether they will be "successful" parish pastors.  Hidden in seminary training, pastoral formation, background checks, reputation inquiries, and endless psychological testing lay the grit and determination of that man to do what it takes to fulfill his calling and do his best under less than optimal circumstances.  How do you discern this?  I am sure the seminaries and those within them responsible for certification and placement want to know.  But no one knows except God.  I wish it were otherwise.  But it is not.

Now you might be wondering what marriage and ordination have in common, but connecting the dots on the qualities that enables marriage to endure and pastors to be "good" and "successful" pastors is not as odd as you might think.  In the end, we trust the judgment of the Church, as fallible as that is, with the prayerful consideration of the Church mixed in with the experience and wisdom of the seminary and vicarage/field work and we say yes or no.  Only to be proven wrong sometimes because we could not see into the hearts of this man (or his wife and family) and measure their grit and determination to make it work.

Just a few odd thoughts today. . .

1 comment:

Tressa said...

Great thoughts! Angela Duckworth wrote a book called Grit that you may be interested in. It is about perseverance.