The Break-Up Flowers


Post Author: Meg Jenista


They got delivered on Sunday by mistake. The florist had a backlog of funeral arrangements to deliver and the bouquet to commemorate my loss got pushed back until Sunday. I told the florist to deliver them to the parsonage “first thing” but the florist version of “first thing” Sunday morning deviated by at least an hour from the pastor version.

A zealous usher saw the florist knocking at the parsonage next door and waved her over to the church. So there they were, on my desk, a half hour before game time, a beautiful reminder of what I was trying to forget.

A week earlier –

before the church retreat

and before the excessive sermon preparation that doubled as pain killers

(who doesn’t drown their sorrows in Greek conjugations?)

and before the pastoral visits I made with the shards of a broken heart

clattering around inside me

before I could marvel at my ability to soldier through

before I could despair that no one could tell any difference…

…A week earlier, my boyfriend and I broke up. And, let me tell you, this was not one of those amicable and mature unicorns of a break-up. I called my friends and cried, then I picked myself up and carried on. The heartbreak felt so personal. It was mine to carry so I did the thing I was never sure I’d be able to do in the midst of a break up. I did my job. Not well. Not completely, but enough, and the Holy Spirit filled in the gaps, as she always and so graciously does.

But now there were flowers on my desk. And a note that read “You are not alone,” which–despite the whirring copier in the office and the deacons counting a special collection next door and the tech team setting up nearby and my colleague standing in my study running through our last minute preparations – was exactly how I felt.

A well-meaning church member stopped in the doorway, complimented my flowers and politely inquired, “May I ask the occasion?”

“They’re from friends.”

“Do you think we could use them on the altar this morning?”

“No.” I said.

We blinked at each other, both a little uncomprehending. Her offer was innocent enough but it met, in me, a feisty conviction that there was already enough of me on that altar.

So much of our lives, as pastors, belongs to the church: our prayers, our contemplations of Scripture, our time, our compassion. They belong to the church. And we are blessed that, in our giving, we often land in the right place to receive.

But what I learned that Sunday morning from the accidental flowers on my desk is that, sometimes, the grace gets to be just for you.

“No,” I told her. My break up flowers don’t belong to the church. This break-up will never be a sermon illustration. It won’t make me a better chair-person. I won’t discover a secret love of nursing home visitation once the pain has worn off. This break up won’t make me a better pastor. And maybe that’s okay because it wasn’t meant to. There’s already enough of me on that altar.

If the heartbreak is mine to carry then the break-up flowers are mine too. Because I’m human and I took a risk and, at least for now, it didn’t pay off. Because I get to be vulnerable and courageous as a person, not just as your pastor. Because I have friends in my corner. And because, sometimes, the grace gets to be just for me.

 


Meg Jenista is a Christian Reformed pastor in Washington DC where she enjoys museums, fabulous restaurants, and her cat, Bridget. She might start running again.


Image by: jjjj56cp
Used with permission
2 replies
  1. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Hi Meg. Checking to see if my email publishes on-line (or to make sure it doesn’t) before I leave the comment I really want to leave. What you wrote is real, it happens and it sucks.

    Reply
  2. Marnie
    Marnie says:

    This is one of the most difficult lessons for a pastor and congregation to understand sometimes. As a pastor’s daughter I remember all the times our personal lives were not our own, and Daddy did not fight to make them specially so most of the time. But when the occasion arose that the grace needed to be just ours, he stood for our separation from that church fold and they understood. The one thing we understood in our family was that Daddy was not put on this earth just to care for our family. He had a greater Calling and we were a side benefit. Mother always made sure that his calling to do God’s work was what came first in all our lives and the church was his primary obligation. He never neglected us, but we shared every moment and appreciated every ounce of him that we got. They were marvelous parents, great Christians and examples.

    Reply

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