I just started one of a group of new books for a study project, "Well Intentioned Dragons" by the author and pastor, Marshall Shelley. The oddness of reading a book by someone who has the same name (with one letter's addition) as mine is odd. It's like sitting across from yourself at a coffee shop. I feel like I am talking "with" him and at the same time find myself sliding into a sensation something like looking into a mirror. Really, we have little in common other that that we are both pastors. He writes, edits and teaches. I lead a church as an interim rector. Still, the ground he covers in this book is well known to me. I have seen the effects of the people he idenntifies as well intentioned dragons, and know that these beloved of God present some of the deepest challenges to health, self-care and confidence that any pastor can face.
What I appreciate about his thesis is the assertion that though these dragons represent a threat to the well-being and effectiveness of pastors in their work as servants leading the people of God, they are just as beloved of our Lord Jesus as any one else. Like strings on a guitar that are out of tune, instead of creating resonant tones when one is struck, there is a dissonance that rumbles through the instrument and affects all who hear it. How many times have we, as pastors, done our level best to connect with members of our parishes, only to have that attempt just seem to add fuel to the fires of conflict? It is more than some skill to learn, dealing with dragons. It is coming to the realization that 1) it always takes at least two, or more, to tango; and 2) just because one assumes that an issue is put to "rest, one can't assume that the conflcit is resolved...that reconciliation only comes to pass if the parties are invested in reunion and healing after a split. Sometimes, the resolve entails years of work at the most basic levels.
I am just into the book, but am impressed by my doppelganger's insight. He doesn't pull punches and there are no pereceptible filters in his work to exhibit the nature and declension of his taxonomies of dragons. More to come on the varieties: 1) The Bird Dog; 2) The Wet Blanket; 3) The Entrepreneur; 4) Captain Bluster; 5) The Fickle Financier; 6) The Busybody; 7) The Sniper; 8) The Bookkeeper; 9) The Merchant of Muck; 10) The Legalist. How terrifying to read this taxonomy...and yet even as these dragons are named, I am aware of two things--that even as pastors struggle to maintain relationships with these folk and work to ameliorate the impact they have on their congregations and ministries, there are the same dragons in the college of presbyters, in the midst of our colloquy of leadership (dioceses, conventions, conferences and districts). Dragons wear collars, too.
Lots to pray about today....lots to pray about, so pardon me while I go home for a bit to take a long hard look in the mirror and deal with the scales around my own eyes before I start polishing those of the people around me.....