I’ve been thinking about simple words, and how difficult they are to say. I was preparing a Bible study on one of Paul’s letters, and he wrote these simple and beautiful words to his congregation: “thank you,” “you give me joy” and “I love you.” Paul can sometimes be cranky and long-winded, so it was pretty breathtaking to read “thank you, you give me joy, I love you.” It makes me a little sad that those words can, and do, surprise me.
As clergy, we have become more cautious, more careful about expressing our love and joy to our congregations, for fear of being misunderstood or crossing a boundary. I wonder what it would be like, though, for a pastor, minister, or priest to stand before their dear and imperfect gatherings and say, “Thank you. You give me joy. I love you.” I wonder what it would be like for a congregation or assembly to hear those words without wondering what their shepherd wanted, to just accept it and feel their hearts warm and soften. Thank you, you give me joy. I love you.
Outside of church walls, can you imagine what the response would be at a Walmart morning team meeting, a state cabinet meeting, or a department staff meeting for the manager or leader to begin with “Thank you. You give me joy. I love you.” There’s a part of me that thinks there’s a memo somewhere that would make such a proclamation against company policy. That makes me a little sad, too.
Are these words a coach can say? How about a dance or music instructor? A director of a play? An editor? A teacher? What kind of leaders, in what kinds of leadership positions might actually feel free enough, and genuine enough, to say “Thank you, you give me joy, I love you”?
Beyond wondering who might speak these lovely and simple words, I continue to wonder: We might actually say ‘thank you’ to many people, many times a day. We might even say “I love you” to any number of people close to us. But I wonder if any of us have said, “You give me joy.” How much richer and deeper “I love you” and “thank you” become when “You give me joy” is added!
I wonder what it might be like, in the next few weeks, if each of us found a time and place, a group or a gathering, where we stand up, look at those around us and say, “Thank you. You give me joy. I love you.” I will, if you will!
• Rev. Sue Bahleda is the pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church.