The other day, I got sucked down an internet rabbit hole. You know, you start on one thing and the next thing you know it is two hours later, and for some reason, you have been watching unrelated Youtube videos. One of the treads I got sucked into was a pilot who primarily now flies 747 aircraft. On one of his videos, he took on the comments section (never read the comments/complaints/trolls). Most of them were pretty funny, but some were just plain mean. I’ll give a few examples: 1) someone complained that he wore his flight shirt with the rank insignia on it (no airline specifications). They said, “This guy doesn’t know a thing about aircraft. Anyone can go to Amazon and purchase an inexpensive flight shirt and pass themselves off as a pilot.” 2) someone complained that he didn’t blink much during his videos. His response, “Dude. These videos are not a single shot, but spliced together.” 3) several people complained about the way he looked with his nearly shaved head (Ahem. I know at least one person very personally who has sported one for at least ten years.). Another person said, “You’d look so much better with a beard.” He couldn’t help but address that one. “U.S. regulations require a clean-shaven face so that the oxygen mask can seal properly.” (I now know why you never see flight crews with facial hair.) The list goes on and on. And he took them with good humor.
It reminded me of some of the asinine complaints I received when I was in local parish ministry. Some were easy to laugh off, like the anonymous letters addressed to, “pastor” (extra credit is given to hand written diatribes) which basically said that I wasn’t a Christian, that my parish was going to hell, and that the only way to avoid eternal damnation was to change our ways. Other complaints I experienced were things like, “I was in the hospital and you didn’t come visit.” This is number one on the list. Well, if I had known you were having surgery, I would have been there. I also got this one occasionally, “I know it was your day off, but you didn’t come to….” Or, “Yes, I know it was a required denominational meeting that was a six hour drive, but we had a BBQ and we had you scheduled to bless the food.” (The person was offended for something completely out of my control.) Or, “I’m going to be watching my grandchildren at my house while their parents take a week of vacation. They don’t go to church. Will you baptize them when they are here?” Of course the answer is no. The list goes on and on. Some of it was the way I dressed, or how much I weighed, you know, personal attacks. My favorite was always, “Pastor, we never sing my favorite hymn!” “Oh. I am so sorry. What is your favorite hymn?” “Silent Night, Holy Night.” My thought: you do realize it is the middle of July, right?
Anyway, I know that it is getting to be that time of year when the nominal Christians come out of the woodwork, you know who I am talking about, the, “Christers”, the ones that only show up at Christmas and Easter, but feel the need to lodge a complaint with you for not living up to the convoluted memories they have of Christmas past. Sometimes local parish ministry feels like Festivus. I know that it is easy for these kinds of complaints to get under your skin and keep you up at night. They add more stress to an already stressful season that you are trying your best to juggle all the balls that include worship services, sermons, special music, festivals, community events, volunteer work, parish ministry, pastoral care, newsletter articles, oh, and of course family. Like we need one more stressor added into our life, one more ball to keep up in the air.
I know it is easy to say, but I encourage you to let the complaint ball fall and don’t pick it up again. Only deal with it if it is an actual complaint that needs to be addressed. I am never good at doing this. I let my striving for perfection overtake the reality of my flawed humanity. My prayer is that you can do a better job of keeping the first things first and let the complaints fall to the ground. Let that ball drop.
Have a blessed Christmastide as we begin to move into Advent and prepare our whole being for the wonder of the newborn Christ.