It has been two months now since I made a spreadsheet for a cost analysis of commercial rolls of toilet paper and paper towels. Did you know that rolls of paper that tear off in neatly perforated, individual sheets cost $8.10 each and upward? It costs less if you make the tear yourself. Bobby from the supply company feels certain he can get me a better deal if I’ll sign on for three years of new dispensers, so I made a column for that, too. I will not confess how many hours of my life I gave away to this project, but I will confess that I was less than gracious with a beloved co-worker when he reminded me not to compare the $2.67 role of toilet paper to Angel Soft but rather to check the square count and factor in ply. More columns. Color coded.
Too late into this drama, I knew the spreadsheet would be the end of me and trusted my intuition as I hugged my co-worker, assured him of my undying love and gratitude, and walked away from the office for a couple of days of rest. Somewhere in those days I heard something like a voice speak from somewhere within me, “So, the spreadsheet. That’s, uh, that’s really a thing you did. And who asked you to spend your day doing that?” Good question.
Years ago, Liz Gilbert spoke to the heart of my anxious, perfectionist nature: “Letting go, of course, is a scary enterprise for those of us who believe that the world revolves only because it has a handle on the top of it which we personally turn, and that if we were to drop this handle for even a moment, well, that would be the end of the universe. But try dropping it. Sit quietly for now and cease your relentless participation. Watch what happens. The birds do not crash dead out of the sky in mid-flight, after all. The trees do not wither and die, the rivers do not run red with blood. Life continues to go on.”
For two months now, I have been ceasing my relentless participation. I shared the story of The Spreadsheet with my congregation in a business meeting as I repented publicly of my over-functioning before it could become an entrenched habit. And those beautiful people laughed the most beautiful and tender laughs as though to say, “Oh, we love you for caring that much, but what a ridiculous way to spend a day.” And then a wonderful woman, who is not even yet a member, raised her wonderful hand and said, “I would love to do that for you. I have some time on my hands. Could I come inventory the building and find the best prices and make a spreadsheet for the church?” Bless. And she showed up and started room by room and closet by closet, and now I get to spend time with her. It’s nothing short of a miracle.
I have let go of the illusion that I might be a superhero pastor. I want one of those T-shirts that says, “World’s Okayest Pastor.” I will bring my good-enough self and partner it up with yours, and we will tell some truth together. We must tell the truth about our lives when we get lost in the weeds or in our heads or in a spreadsheet that no one asked us to make. And when we tell the truth about our lives, we will hear the kindest laughter and discover gracious friends. We will remember that we are not alone and that the future of The Church Universal or our children’s lives or even our hidden, fragile hearts are not ours alone to carry.
Thanks be to God.