In the first month of my appointment in Riverside, I preached on relationships. I preached on balance, on humility, on love, on mutuality. Each week was a different text and focus. Now, relationships come in many shapes and sizes and I have lots of relationships (professional, familial, collegial, platonic, etc). And I studied psychology and sociology and pastoral care well enough to understand a fair number of dynamics within a relationship. So, I won't say that I preached in complete ignorance, but this year I have started dating and I am learning a lot.
The other day I was talking with my best friend about the challenges of communication, especially in conflict, and said, you know, everyone says relationships are hard work, but seriously, this is nuts...and all those times I preached about relationships people just smiled and nodded. She laughed and said, yeah...but really, you just can't describe it unless you are in it. She's right. There is something distinctive about the dynamics of an emotionally intimate relationship that requires much more work and diligence in keeping it functional than other types of relationships. And that level of work isn't really describable to an outsider.
So today I give thanks for all the members of my congregation who have experienced years and years of that dynamic and sat and listened to my naive sermons anyway. I appreciate that they didn't laugh me out of the pulpit or even name my ignorance, but instead appreciated whatever it was I had to say with grace and love.