I have been following with interest the forced resignation — and then reinstatement — of Father Patrick Conroy, Chaplain to the U.S. House of Representatives. It is not my intent in this post to weigh in on the circumstances and politics of these developments. Instead, I have been reflecting on “resignation”.
I confess that there have been times when I have wanted to resign — resign from ministry, resign from this walk of faith, resign from doing what God has called me to do. I suspect I am not the only one. There are times when what God asks seems too great. Some have said “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” while others have added, “I wish God didn’t trust me so much.” As Christians, we are called to respond to the world’s hurts and hungers, bring healing to the world’s wounds and brokenness, and confront the powers and principalities that cause suffering and injustice. We are called to engage with God’s love in our homes and families, our churches and communities, and our nation and world. This is not easy. My heart gets broken over and over again. My spirit dries up. My soul falters.
It is times like these that make me wonder if it is all worth it. Maybe I don’t have the “right stuff” to truly do the tasks faith requires of me. Mainly, I question whether I have the stomach for it. Facing all the places that hunger for healing is overwhelming. Please God, let someone else respond. Not me. Not now.
I give thanks for a God who breaks into my life when I am feeling most resigned.
But if I were really honest, the things that cause me to think about a resignation letter have more to do with the small and not so small ways our relationships with each other damage the image of God that resides in each of us. The times I forget that the person before me bears the marks of our Creator, the situations which look more like a locker room brawl than a community that calls itself the body of Christ.
I give thanks for a God who breaks into my life when I am feeling most resigned. This God helps me see my own role both in perpetuating brokenness as well as in the healing. God makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters. God restores my soul.
When this happens, I recognize that a desire to resign is a direct correlation to the state of my soul. When I tend to my soul, I can do all things through Christ. When I ignore my soul’s cries, I am an empty vessel and cannot do what God desires of me. At that time, resignation seems like the only right action.
The rhythm of faith calls for retreat for renewal but never resignation.
On May 3, Chaplain Conroy retracted his resignation. Each day is an opportunity for you and me to tear up our own resignation letters and renew our commitment to follow Christ. When we tend to our spiritual lives, when we listen to the longings of our soul for nourishment, when we sink into the heart of God through prayer, we are offered renewal of spirit.
Resignation serves no one, especially God. Each of us has our own unique role to play in the creation of God’s Beloved Community. It requires our complete and total engagement. The rhythm of faith calls for retreat for renewal but never resignation. May we help one another hear God’s call for our lives, grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, and deepen our connections with those we love as well as those we are called to love.