The Pastor

I love being a pastor. But there are days that I don’t want to be a pastor anymore. Soulwork is hard work. Raising a family is hard work. Lives and marriages and young people and God’s dream for their lives weighs heavy some days. And my life is already heavy some days. The days that my life is light and pastoring is heavy are manageable and the days that pastoring is light and my life is heavy are manageable, but it’s those doubled-up, when it rains it pours days that get me.

The day that Carsyn cries because she doesn’t want to go shopping with anyone but Tiffanni for private things and someone leaves the church because, well, who knows, because they didn’t tell anyone- those days are a lot.

And the day that Tiffanni’s medicine doesn’t cooperate and she calls me a dozen times to ask the same question and to tell me that there are ants in the house everywhere, yet no one else sees them and I find out that a couple in the church is getting a divorce- those days are a lot.

And the days that I didn’t sleep the night before because one of the kids is sick and I don’t have anyone to split parent duty with while I clean sheets and floors, and give medicine every 4 hours, and check temps and hold back hair over a toilet and I have to preach a sermon that refuses to come out with any clarity because all of the clarity was spent on sanity- those days are a lot.

When heavy days outnumber light days, God’s voice and assurance gets lost in the weight.

About a year after Tiffanni was diagnosed, the adrenaline rush of “I can do this” had worn off, I didn’t want to pastor anymore. Everything was too much. I began to think through other options, those options where I could support my family and leave work at the office. Check out when I wasn’t at work. I don’t think I’ve ever heard God speak to my heart the way that he did in that season. One day in prayer, or maybe it wasn’t prayer since it was an overwhelmed season. Maybe I was making school lunches or something menial which makes much more sense. I felt like I heard God impress upon me,

“Jeremy, the church needs you. I want you to give her the grace and the space to live a difficult life with a certainty that I won’t leave. I need you to speak honestly and authentically about how you feel. That you have doubts about faith, and church, and healing, and me. And those doubts can’t sabotage faith or dead end hope. The church, especially the Pentecostal church, needs to hear about grief and loss. They need to stop pretending that things will get better because they believe it hard enough. That I am a healer and I am a sustainer, and sometimes only one at a time. But never simply because they want me to be badly enough. I need your voice, your posture, your failure, and your hope.”

And then I heard,

“Jeremy, you need the church. I’m not coming to live with you, to help you, to defend you, to uplift you, to heal you- that’s the job of my church. And if you don’t let the church do that, then you’ve left me no options. My church is strong and resilient. She functions best when she realizes a clear mission and you and your family are part of that. Let me love you and take care of you through my church. I have given you to the church, now let me give the church to you. She will be my hands and heart. She will love you the way that I love you.”

And with that, I rededicated my life to the church. Heavy days and light days. I have seen her at her best. The way that she has loved me and my family is the strength of my faith. I have felt, sensed, and experienced a tangible Jesus because she has shared my burden.

I love being a pastor. God saved me and asked me to be a pastor, and he saved me by allowing me to be a pastor, and he saves me while I pastor. I love his body and his body loves me and Jesus loves me inside of this beautiful, mysterious give and take. This I know.

I am a pastor. My work has to do with God and souls—immense mysteries that no one has ever seen at any time. But I carry out this work in conditions—place and time—that I see and measure wherever I find myself, whatever time it is. There is no avoiding the conditions. I want to be mindful of the conditions. I want to be as mindful of the conditions as I am of the holy mysteries. – Eugene Peterson