Monday, January 12, 2015

Trust the process

"Trust the process."

Anyone who has been down the road of following Christ's call into ordained ministry hears something along those lines - "trust the process." Call me snarky (go head ... it's ok. I've been called that a lot.) but I am not inclined to trust the process. Why? Because processes are run by people and, well being a people myself, I know what we're capable of doing and the level at which we can wreak havoc, destruction and colossally screw things up.

And it feels right now like the church I love has screwed up and one of its leaders has colossally wreaked havoc and destruction. I speak of the collision between the SUV driven by our Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook and bicyclist Tom Palermo who died as a result of his injuries. Bishop Cook is now in jail on a $2.5 million bail. She is charged with manslaughter, drunk driving and texting while driving. And it isn't the first time. She was arrested on a DUI just four years ago. In both cases, her blood alcohol content was extremely high (.27 & .22 respectively) indicating a high tolerance to alcohol ... meaning she is alcoholic.

Heather Cook was elected as bishop suffragan in May 2014, consecrated in September 2014, and this collision happened on December 27, 2014. According to the reports from our Bishop Diocesan and members of the search committee, they were only given minimal information about "a candidate" having "a prior DUI." Anyone who works with alcoholics and those in recovery know that this was just insufficient information to make an informed and pastoral decision about letting a candidate go forward in the process. Too many people looked at this and wanted to be forgiving. But forgiveness without accountability is nothing more than enabling. And our church enabled Heather Cook's disease and set her up to fail by not asking the tough questions about her plan of sobriety and putting her forward too soon. Heather failed us by choosing not to treat her alcoholism. Trust the process? Hell no!
Base coats going on

So imagine my frustration when that phrase bubbled up while I was writing an icon. I've just started writing icons. I've always loved them but for many years was too afraid to try writing them myself. My growth as an artist was stunted somewhere between crayons and finger painting. But back in August, I took a leap and enrolled in a class on iconography. I was encouraged by someone I knew who was an artist ... and suffering from alcoholism. Sadly, his relapse resulted in a catastrophic meltdown of our relationship - mainly because he began to turn his abuse on me when he drank. I refuse to put up with abuse. But before that meltdown, he encouraged me to take this iconography class ... and for that I will always be grateful to him. I ended up really liking it and it helped me get through some very difficult times this fall.

First skin highlights ... in orange!
I had always heard icons are prayed into existence. It's true. You can lose yourself in this if it is your calling. You "write" or paint them beginning with dark colors and adding highlights - moving from darkness to light, from chaos to Christ. The funny thing is ... you have to trust the process of writing them because there are times when you just cannot see how this whole thing is going to turn out. That's especially true when you start working on the faces of the figures. They start out with a base coat called "protoplasmos" ... yeah, protoplasm ... and it's this olive drab color that looks hideous. This is followed by a first flesh highlight that is tangerine orange ... yeah ... tangerine on olive drab. It just looks weird and I felt my anxiety going up when I looked at it. Then I heard it ... "trust the process." OK ... here goes ... yellow oxide next ... then yellow oxide and titanium white ... then the enliveners of titanium white. Getting better with each coat ... still looking a little weird.
Finishing the icon

And then it happened ... painting the eyes and suddenly BAM! There's this face looking at you. Seriously, a real honest to goodness face! Trust the process ... it worked ... and it taught me something. Our process isn't finished - God is still working things out. This horrible tragedy of death resulting from alcoholism and our church's behavior as an enabling family system is a wake up call to us. A wake up call that our process is flawed, we have been in denial and we need to start holding not only candidates for ordination and leadership accountable to sobriety but also have a consistent pastoral way to remove clergy from their charges when their disease becomes active and give them the opportunity to get treatment to be well.

Trust the process of revising the process. I pray we have the courage and faith in Christ to do a step 4 ("Taking a fearless moral inventory") and move forward into a more life giving future for the sake of Christ and the people he loves.

Trust God's process - there is one, though we may not know it. God isn't finished with us yet. God isn't finished with Heather yet and hasn't given up on her. God isn't finished with the artist who inspired me to try and hasn't given up on him either. And God isn't finished with me either.

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