Authentic Preaching

The preacher in me is tired. She absorbs so much of other people’s pain that she forgets (or avoids) attending to her own pain. Sometimes she feels like a heavy sponge, water-logged with second-hand trauma, dripping with awareness of the way so many people suffer unseen.

Yet there isn’t a person who has shared their secrets that she’d wish to turn away. The sharing is sacred, and she knows it, honors it.

What she wishes is that there wasn’t so much evil and tragedy to be talked about, wishes every other woman didn’t have an assault or abuse story locked in her body, wishes men would stop raping, wishes children could be safe, wishes the church wouldn’t inflict the wounds of rejection on so many hungry souls, that the binding up of the broken-hearted was a uniting mission not a divisive issue.

Truth be told, she wishes there was someone to bind up her own wounds. She wishes it wasn’t her unmet needs that taught her how to love and how to pastor. She wishes she could give from her own fullness, but there is never enough time to find what she needs.

Why is it so hard to find what you need, to even know what you need? Sometimes the best you can do is try to leave behind less damage than you have endured, and even then, you question whether you are succeeding.

The preacher in me is awake. She absorbs so much of other people’s pain she cannot remain oblivious and contented. So much of the pain she hears is familiar to her, and her empathy expands nearly too big for her body. She sees the invisible web linking oppression to oppression; she cannot un-see it.

This means, among other things, she is alive in a way that she wasn’t before. She is linked to all of humanity in a way she didn’t understand before. She is learning so much about the world, and, it turns out, so much about herself. Love is so much more than a warm feeling, and while she is slow to grasp it, she has moved closer to comprehension, which is alternately hopeful and painful.

Painful: learning that what she accepted as love from others was not, in fact, love at all, but an imposter

Hopeful: learning that her instinct about love being more than these manipulations was right all along

The preacher in me is in love with the rejected, the broken, and the forgotten. She is still learning to be in love with what is rejected, broken, and forgotten inside of her. Both of these are forbidden loves.

We are supposed to love the obviously beautiful, not discover beauty in the mundane, or the freak, or the pained. We are not supposed to be madly in love with the rejects, but I am. The preacher in me is wild, crazy about the forgotten ones. She is starting to pay attention also to the forgotten pieces of her that were long ago discarded as less important than her work, less important than success, less important than someone else’s need.

She is starting to understand how exhausting it is to resist what the heart wants to love: herself. How tiring it is to stay secretive about the beauty she finds in what some in the church have called profane. But isn’t that what Jesus did? Dine with the so-called sinner? Snuggle up to lepers and notice the forgotten children?

The preacher in me who has often felt alone imagines that she can hear a whisper, “Come to me, all you who are weary … ”

The burden actually still feels quite heavy, but the hidden joys of being this alive and the promise of being in good company along the way make it bearable, at least for today, and not just bearable, but also worthwhile.

Kyndall Rothaus begins her bimonthly Working Preacher column, “Authentic Preaching,” which she describes as: Learning to cultivate one’s voice, trusting that voice as enough, bringing one’s authentic, vulnerable self into the pulpit in appropriate ways.