This week was very much like many other weeks I’ve had as a priest, though maybe at a more fevered pitch beginning on Wednesday. That day my boss had surgery–we all waited anxiously to hear how it had gone because it was either going to be something simple with a short recovery time or something a lot more complicated. The night before his surgery, I learned that another person in the parish was also going in for a surgical procedure to determine the gravity of life-threatening illness. And then, early on Wednesday morning, after I had made my plans for hospital visits, I found out that a beloved parishioner and retired federal judge had died in the night. We were going to have 48 hours to plan a very large, very visible funeral.
All the news we were waiting for turned out to be good–better than any of us had dared hope. The funeral was what a funeral should be, even though it was big enough to require us to have a spillover room where people who did not fit in the nave got a live feed of the service (though we settled for an audio feed because time was so short). The members of the parish were so generous in their response and got so much done fast. I got to see a really fine clergy person in action–the former rector of Ascension came in to help in Andy’s absence. And because there was so much going on, it was ever so tempting simply to submit to what is largely the self-imposed relentlessness of parish ministry, the compulsion I think many clergy folks struggle with, because we don’t want to disappoint.
Fortunately, I have found my way a little further into what I hope is more health and wholeness than I had in the past. I realized I had to go home on Thursday at a reasonable hour, though I coulda, shoulda, woulda easily put in a 12 hour+ day to attend a social function of the church, a party I had been looking forward to. After the funeral, the family was most gracious about inviting me to have lunch with them. Instead, I went around and visited for a bit before I got in my car and came home to the farm. I had things I had to take care of here–a husband who had been alone a lot this week, my dogs, my cats, my roses, my chickens.
Both afternoons, I got to spend time watching chicken life unfold. Bruce the Roo has grown up in a totally cisgender kind of way. Quite honestly, I was appalled to see how he treated the hens. The worst part was how he’d come up to one and peck the heck out of her, pull several feathers from her back and make her holler in pain before sauntering off with nary a care in the world. I realized I am most certainly not a farmer, though I dabble in this world. I simply have no stomach for watching him hurt the hens; I understand these are patterns of behavior that go back thousands and thousands of years. They just serve no purpose in this particular household.
We thought about banishing Bruce from the coop, leaving him to fend for himself outside. On both nights we started to put the plan in place but when I saw how frantically he tried to get back into the coop as night fell, I did not have the heart to follow through. Today, we tried leaving him out but our boy Mo and our girl Daisy too quickly had too much fun chasing after him. Nothing good could come of that.
We’d already put out the word that we were trying to find alternatives for Bruce when Fee, the owner of Highway 80 Cafe, where you can have a fried bologna plate with grits and egg for breakfast, sent word that her Grandmama would take him. Sherod was masterful catching him up without doing harm and Bruce went into Daisy’s crate for the short ride down to the Cafe. Fee told us her grandmama is 84 years old and loves to sit on her porch with little biddies, watching the older, larger chickens out in her yard. Hopefully, Bruce will have a good life in his new home and I will miss his crowing–it was a delight to wake up to that sound in the morning thinking, that’s my rooster Bruce! But this is what I can manage: six hens living a pretty placid life.
I’m OK with the realization I am not a farmer and probably won’t ever be. I am also OK with the realization that being a priest these days means respecting my limits and boundaries far more intentionally than I did in the past, even when my impulse is different. I caught myself after I got home on Thursday: I kept wanting to talk Sherod into getting dressed so we could head back into town for the party. I silenced the itty bitty little gotta go voice and I still have bit more to go before I am rid of the sense of “shoulda”.
It is what it is. We did the best by Bruce that we were capable of and there’s a lot about this week I am proud of. I very intentionally choose to live a life more bounded and circumscribed by the limits I wish I didn’t have. Today, driving home after having dropped off Bruce, I saw–I really saw–the beauty of the rolling hills around me. I was not too tired to notice. Later, I am going to get to stop by and wish a friend a belated happy birthday and bring her the gift I’ve had in my car all week. I’ll prepare a sermon and get ready for what the next week brings; even as I write this, I feel a little blip of excitement about what all that may be.
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Bruce is a lucky guy! Sherod is also a lucky guy. He has YOU! Keep your boundaries. I think of you everyday and am amazed at your energy. Love you friend.