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God Waits Too

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Guest blog by Proclaim member Rev. Nate Gruel

I am comfortable assuming that I am in tune with many other people when it comes to waiting. I hate waiting. I hate waiting rooms. They are places of frustration and aggravation.

Rev. Nate Gruel presiding at the Proclaim Retreat,  with Rev. Anita Hill. (Photo credit: Emily Ann Garcia)

I relate well to the pessimism of Samuel Beckett. In his tragicomedy Waiting for Godot, the characters Vladimir and Estragon are a couple of fellas I would be comfortable spending time with.

Some offer different perspectives. William Faulkner once wrote, “And sure enough even waiting will end…if you can just wait long enough.” On a less speculative note, someone once said, “The worst part of life is waiting. The best part of life is having something worth waiting for.”

On a decidedly positive note, someone has added, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain!”

Many in the former Extraordinary Candidacy Project (ECP, a predecessor of ELM) community and in the current Proclaim community have learned and/or are still learning to dance in the rain.

I was ordained on June 18, 1972, and I left (read “was removed from”) the public ministry when I exited from my private closet in 1979. That was 36 years ago, and since then I never stopped believing that God had called me into the public ministry of Word and Sacrament. For much of that time, life did seem to be all about learning to dance in the rain. That’s a lot of water – not the good, life-giving, life-affirming kind, but the overwhelming, drowning kind.

In the midst of the deluge, however, there have been times for coming up for breath, times for real, joyful, fun-filled rain dancing. In the mid-1980’s there was a period of a year, give or take, when a small community of God’s people in Muncie, Indiana, invited me to pastor them during a vacancy.

The end of that time was stormy, forcing me into some deep, deep waters, but the preceding time of rain dancing had been worth every soggy moment of what followed.

Some years later someone told me about a community of other “rain dancers” called the Extraordinary Candidacy Project. I became a legitimate part of that community in November, 2002, via acceptance to the ECP roster. That community taught me that GOD ALSO WAITS! It became obvious I wasn’t waiting alone, and as many of us waited through stormy times when our ministries were rejected, God was waiting with us; waiting for the storms to pass, waiting for the flood gates of renewal and newness to be flung wide open, waiting for something new.

And wonder of wonders, Faulkner was right. Waiting does come to an end. God must have been tired of waiting, and God knows, so was I. On April 30th of this year I attended a church council meeting of folks at Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Ocala, Florida, who were told that the Florida-Bahamas Synod Bishop wanted to appoint me as their interim pastor.

I boldly announced to them the reality of my same-sex relationship, fully expecting that news would bring a swift and negative end to our conversation. (Lots of waiting often results in pessimism.) But they voted unanimously to approve the bishop’s recommendation, and as I write this blog, I am sitting in the office of the pastor of Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Ocala, having just written the first sermon I will deliver to this people of God.

I look back now with enormous amounts of gratitude for the many people, known and unknown, who provided varieties of support during my waiting, especially those who participated in and supported the ECP community. It is now so much more than just a cliché to affirm that “good things come to those who wait.” That is my hope-filled message to my brothers and sisters in Proclaim whose wait continues, along with a reminder that God really does wait with you.

 

nate gruelby Rev. Nate Gruel.  Trained at Concordia Theological Seminary (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod), Nate was ordained to ministry of Word and Sacrament in June 1972. He served two parishes in Indiana until 1979 and was subsequently removed from the LC-MS clergy roster.  For the next 32 years he worked in the newspaper industry as a graphic artist and editor. He was approved to the ECP roster in November 2002. He moved from Muncie, Indiana, to Florida in 2003. He served without a call as Assistant to the Pastor at University Lutheran Church and Campus Ministry in Gainesville, Fla., from 2010 to 2015. In March 2011 he was approved as a candidate for the ELCA roster in the Florida-Bahamas Synod. He was called to be the interim pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Ocala, Fla., on June 1, 2015.  Nate and his life partner, Paul Monaghan, will celebrate the 25th anniversary of their committed relationship in February, 2016.

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