He is a man of vision, with a clear, bold yet realistic vision for the future of the church – shaped by his excellent collaborative team work and eagerly signed up to by his church members.
He never forgets a name, and is never at a loss for that important detail that really needed to be remembered. His psychic powers accurately tell him who is in hospital, who is pregnant and who needs a visit. His diary management skills means he always finds the time. His faculty applications are things of beauty. His sermons are just the right balance between warmth, wisdom, scholarship and humour. And never, never a minute too long.
He is excellent with children – who never giggle at the wrong places in his assemblies. (He never giggles in the wrong places either) His youth group members are keen and active, and he knows all the names of the bands they like. (They would never, never moon at him from a moving car on a dual carriage way. Oh no) He’s excellent with older folk, and never for a minute wearies of photos of grandchildren, or descriptions of dodgy joints. His small talk is fluent and warm and inviting and he never gets trapped in an awkward silence.
The meetings he chairs always, always finish on time, and make good decisions. He can operate the Central Heating controller with his eyes closed and somehow achieve that magical temperature that is neither too cold nor too hot, while maximising cost efficiency. He does all his paper work on time and in full and hits all his deadlines.
He is leading his church into growth and his bishops love him for it.
This man lives in my head.
He is not a welcome guest.
I compare myself to him on a regular basis and always come off second best. This is not a recipe for self-confidence and inner peace.
Do you have a similar high-flying, all singing, all dancing super-hero in residence? Wonder-Mum is an occasional visitor here….I bet she pops in on some of you, too, with her unfailing patience, educational games and tidy house.
And then, one tearful day, while trying but failing to serve an eviction notice on this charming, unwelcome character, something occurred to me. This Super-Vicar never needs to pray. Sure, his prayer life probably ticks all the boxes, and his Quiet Times are a joy to behold….but he never NEEDS to pray. He never needs to rely on anyone else at all – least of all God. Because he can do it all himself.
He can’t teach me anything about how to live a messy life, surrounded by messy people, because he is so perfect himself.
He can’t teach me about how to be wrong, and admit it. He can’t show me or anyone else in his perfect parish what it looks like to fail and be inadequate, but somehow keep going anyway, to fall and get up over and over again. He’s never known these situations.
He can’t help anyone with how to live with doubt or depression or big questions, because everything in his head is so tidy and right.
Wonder-Mum can’t show her children how to be wrong, with grace, or how to mend a relationship and ask forgiveness, when you hurt someone you love. Like Mary Poppins, she is practically perfect in every way. My kids need to know how to cope with being fallible and imperfect, because that is who they are and who they mix with every day. My parish needs to see how to be weak and wrong, yet still seek for God and follow Jesus – because that is who we are – at least some of the time.
A flawless superhero isn’t equipped to show us these things. Yet, these untidy, messy situations, full of human failing are the territory where the rest of us live our lives. I am flawed and messy and I know it. Perhaps that’s my superpower!