I used to think, right up until two years ago, that I would continue to pastor right up into my 60's and pass 65 and if anybody wanted a long in the tooth pastor in his late 60s around, I might keep on keeping on into my later 60's.
But these days... these days are hard going.
Admittedly I am still in recovery mode after a serious illness, and so I am still not 100%. But dang I'm only in my mid fifties. I shouldn't be feeling so tired yet. But the truth is, I stand in the shower before bed, exhausted, standing there just letting the hot water wash over me, trying to warm up a bit. I feel bone weary tired. Not just physically tired but you know, brain tired, heart tired. Worn out by the rough edges of life tired.
I was at our local ministerial last week and New Pastor was there. He just graduated and is in his first church and he's keen and has that new pastor smell about him. He seems a really good guy. Eager and willing to do whatever he needs to do for the kingdom and the glory of God. A good heart.
I saw myself in him, thirty whatever years ago. New, inexpensive but all you can afford, notebook. New plastic pen. All the blessings and poverty of starting ministry. Completely motivated and passionate. Yet unaware of where this would take me, and what the future held for me.
I was that guy once. I'd go go go, heading out another night to meet with someone who needed help. Another night, another night, and all the days. Work hard, start the church right, work work work. The older kids now say they noticed I was gone a lot. I didn't think I was, but I was busy changing the world.
I couldn't figure out the guys who were my age now. Why were they so, so sluggish, so old. So worn out of great ideas to pursue. Why indeed. It's been a long road with so many bumps and potholes to navigate. I don't bounce back so easy from the hits any longer. I wear out quicker and I just don't come back like I used to.
The theological discussions and conflicts have changed, but the spirits are the same. Many of the manipulative tricks are the same. The ways to build the church are mostly the same, only the names have changed and the costs have gone up. I still get so much mail on how to do better sermons that will impact more and more people. Or how to build up your church to amazing proportions. Its just that they are emails now and not usually mail to my door, although they still do try that.
I hope I am not getting cynical, that would really disappoint me. I mean many of the motives out there are probably good motives. But we do try to find the quickest, easiest way to do the most amount of work. And I add myself to this lot.
But the work itself is hard work. It learning and using prayer to change spiritual climates. Its loving the ones who really mean you harm, who seek to hurt you, emotionally or even in your reputation. Its getting the call late at night because loss has happened and you need to be there, present and in your right spiritual mind, or heart. Its about being present at the right time and place, and not missing those nuanced indications of need or openness to light. Its about working with volunteers and Boards and leaders that change yearly, so you start over.
It IS challenging work, requiring youthful energy with elder wisdom. Too bad you mostly can't get those things in one person.
Where was I....?
Oh right, I'm feeling it these days. My age I mean.
I can't seem to do what I used to could do.
I have overdone it this week already. For reasons that are unusual, this Holy Weekend will have five services in four days. Highly emotional services that will require a high degree of presence and awareness. I entered into day one today with much hope and energy. But by noon I was struggling hard. Three more days to go.
So if you have one, pray for your local pastor on weekends like these. It can be a really tough gig.
Yeah. This would be a good weekend to pray for your pastor. It really does make a difference, really.
Have a great Easter, and celebrate lots.