published on Wednesday, December 8, 2010 by email@example.com
There are many words to describe the past few weeks of my life as pastor. Some of those words are “too much,” “overload,” “migraine-inducing,” “an abundance of activity,” “are you crazy?” or “typical life of a pastor.”
The week before Convocation fit all of the above.
It started with my first, unassisted wedding on Saturday, preaching Homecoming—to a crowd close to four times larger than usual—on Sunday morning, and beginning the first of a four-night revival on Sunday night. As I began to preach four nights of revival, five parishioners were admitted to the hospital through the Emergency Room. Of course the upcoming Sunday sermon was still left to prepare when Thursday arrived. Sunday came along, and I saw some light at the end of the tunnel: my reprieve, my respite was coming. I would be seeing good friends and hearing great speakers at Duke's annual Convocation & Pastors’ School.
I entered this time with a heart and mind ready to relax and rejoice with my brethren who share with me the battlefield that is the pastorate. And I was blessed by the time I spent with them. Yet between late night conversations, all day lectures so brilliant that I felt my brain beginning to fry, receiving phone calls and emails informing me that a parishioner had passed away and that two more people had been admitted to the hospital, I sensed a grave anxiety.
I wish I could say that I prayed at that moment for God’s peace to be with me. Or that I sought out one of my brothers or sisters in the ministry and told them about my overwhelming times and that I needed them to pray for me, but I did not. I felt I needed to get back to the church. I needed to be present with those family members grieving. I needed to be with my parishioners in the hospital for heart and leg pain because I could give them something those doctors and nurses could not.
I held this conviction—that my presence at the conference was some dereliction of duty—and things would not happen without me. As I drove home, I mapped out all the things I needed to do and how I could best care for all of them. I pulled into my driveway and noticed something different…I noticed my yard had undergone quite a grooming. The grass was mowed, weeds had been pulled around the flower bed, and the Weed Eater had taken a vigorous turn all around the house.
I stepped out of my car. I walked around the yard. And then I fell to the ground. I sat in that freshly mowed grass and I cried. I had been taken care of despite all my preoccupation with how “I” would help the people from the churches, how “I” would ease all of that pain and lighten their load. I found myself being served, being blessed.
Thankfully, I was reminded that God was with the people long before I arrived, while I was away in Durham, and will continue to be after I am gone. I was reminded that things still function even when the pastor isn’t present. I was also reminded that the pastor, hopefully, gets as much love and care as he or she is giving. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.” Luke 18:29-30.
As my wife, Sarah, and I prepare to go on our first vacation since coming to the church, I believe God has taught me a valuable lesson. It is not nearly about how much we do, but for whom we do all these things. Together we are the children of God. We are brothers and sisters in Christ and it is that relationship that should determine what we do. It is the shared experience of our faith that leads to the giving and receiving. It is the Life of Love that flows to and through us from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
So, I spend this Sunday night packing bags, posting e-mail and phone messages regarding the vacation with an assurance that things are in better hands than just mine, thank God.