When a person is a candidate for ordination, like myself, one becomes pretty familiar with document called Vision and Expectations. All ordained leaders and candidates for ordination are expected to uphold this document and the expectations laid within it.
This is an important document, one that any of us who follow it doesn't take lightly. A pastor in the ELCA commits at ordination to live a life above reproach. Vision and Expectations helps to inform what living beyond reproach would look like. In seminary, we start living into those expectations now. One expectation is to live, teach, and preach in accordance with the confessions of the church. Another expectation is to pray for the church. Yet another expectation is for single leaders to live a chaste life and for married and partnered couples to remain faithful for one another. As you can imagine, upholding these expectations can provide different challenges to different people.
Another expectation is to practice reconciliation in all of my relationships, including family. While that seems easy enough in an abstract way, I actually find this expectation the most challenging and work the hardest to uphold. I come from an extended family that has a habit of keeping secrets to avoid conflict. This is not always conducive for reconciliation. There are many members of my extended family who do not speak to one another. Family systems are not easy and changing family dynamics is even harder. While there are many fractures in my family that have proven to be healthy fractures, I as a pastoral leader need to develop the ability to discern when the best means of reconciliation is parting ways and the times when it is better to reconnect. I also need to learn how to part ways in a way that truly is a form of reconciliation.
Fractures in relationships, good intentions gone awry, and family secrets are an inevitable part of our human experience, whether that family is a blood relative or the family is a church community. Reconciliation is not always easy, and there will be times when we stumble. But it is then we remember the expectation to stand true to our church confessions; confessions that tell us in Christ we are forgiven when we stumble in striving to live a life beyond reproach. In that confession, I know I am reminded that I am supported and loved, strengthening me to get back up and try again.