Letters on being a pastor
Thank you for praying for Lauralea and I. It's humbling and encouraging at the same time, and I guess I want to encourage you with it all. Often the noise God makes in our heads or hearts sounds a lot like our own voice. But if you follow the promptings and the voice leads you to good things, then follow along and obey the voice. The Father knows your desire to hear him and He won't let you down, if you desire to hear him.
In your letter you wrote:
But here's a bigger question for me these days: sometimes I feel like I don't have the words, like I'm not fit to do this. Some days I don't have that kind of confidence in anything and my faith seems frail and empty. Do you ever have days like that? What do you do with them? How do you get up and preach after a week like that?
I'm not sure if doubt is necessarily the word. I'm not sure what it is I'm missing, but some days I feel empty or dry or like I'm lacking something or like there is a disconnect between me and God. And that scares me more than any of these other concerns.
It scares me because I don't want to be a minister with shallow faith; I don't want to be a minister devoid of belief who just does it because it's a job; I don't want to end up like a Charles Templeton...
I don't want to just go through the motions; I don't want to carry on simply because I can or because I'm a dynamic speaker or because of this or that.
Do you know what I mean? You've always seemed like you are very sure in your faith and in God. But do you have days/weeks like that? What do you do about it? Do you just march on in faith, hoping, trusting, wishing that a better, more faith-filled day/week comes along?
Yeah, I know what you mean.
Tonight is kinda like that for me. I feel like I've failed a couple ofÂ times this week, and it's been a weird week anyway. Though I've had aÂ few good moments with people and God has been in the room with us, my
heart still feels tired or heavy or perhaps just a bit lost tonight.
Tomorrow I need to get up in front of people and encourage them andÂ pray for them and be with them, but my heart feels a thousand milesÂ away. Or more likely, it feels like God is a thousand miles away.
Those are the Sundays I don't look forward to heading into. Those areÂ the days I struggle with.
But of course those days will come because we are human and theÂ dynamic we have with God is one of relationship. It isn't always theÂ same, every day. It shifts and moves and bends and stretches.
So, what do I do on nights like tonight when I know God is out thereÂ but my heart feels empty, and I need to care for people tomorrow? WellÂ I'm honest with myself and with Him and I tell Him that. I try to make
sure there isn't something between us that I've put there thatÂ diminishes our time together.
I make sure the things I have to say tomorrow have integrity, that myÂ notes are ready and that I don't try to be something I'm not. That I'mÂ not saying one thing yet feeling another. I mean there is room for
sadness in church at the front. There is room for lament or a sense ofÂ loss on any given Sunday, and you need to be ok with that and not tryÂ to cover it up or hide it. That just lacks integrity.
No you don't have to tell people all about your week and your feelingsÂ of disconnect, you don't have to tell them that. But you don't have toÂ put on a happy smiley face and use your dynamic radio voice toÂ "WELCOME ALL THE BROTHERS AND SISTERS TO THE HOUSE OF GOD WHERE THEREÂ IS JOY ALL THE TIME IN THE LORD" stuff either.
Invariably when I admit my weakness to God and occasionally to a fewÂ others who know me, that's enough and it's ok. Sometimes it's just aÂ quieter Sunday, but more often than not when I am so weak, God has
room to do some things in the church gathered and in me that he didn'tÂ have room to do before. Many times for me those turn into some of theÂ most profound moments of my life in Christ. As I stand before his kidsÂ and tell them things from his letter to them, often his spirit movesÂ within me in amazing ways that deepen the well within me. And I amÂ healed.
And other times its just a quieter Sunday and I preach and meet peopleÂ and listen to them and pray with them and go home and start again the next day.
I think the key for me is being consistent, honouring the struggleÂ within me without denying that it is going on. Having integrity simplyÂ means that I am what I am and today I am thus and so, and that's justÂ how it is. Allowing myself to be honest in those weak momentsÂ hopefully allows God to be God. Then he can do what he pleases.
Maybe that's what faithfulness is too. What was it Job said? "ThoughÂ He slay me yet will I trust Him."
That's a long winded way of saying hang in there, and keep movingÂ towards God. The seasons of drought can make you deeper, truer, andÂ more gracious, when you walk them out with honesty towards yourself
and others, and faith that God has a clue what He's doing, even if IÂ don't.