I celebrated my first year anniversary as a pastor on Sunday, April 1st. I look upon the fact that this occurred on April Fools Day with no small irony because during that year it seems like I made just about every gaffe and blunder possible while filling in a pulpit.
Additionally, the strain of maintaining a full-time job at the far end of another county from home and trying to pastor two churches in yet two other counties has left me feeling totally spent and absolutely broken on more than one occasion, but evidently not broken enough. Allow me to explain.
Having weathered two church closures as a lay person, I maintain a strong and protective vigilance of my charges to ensure their spiritual nurture and continued growth. Although these are part-time appointments I regard them as my primary full-time occupation because of the critical importance of their continuation and success.
I also rationalized that if for some reason my employer, a military contractor, closed their business it would have only a negligible impact in the spiritual lives of those involved compared to the closure of a church. So, it was obvious to me which one of my two jobs I owed my primary allegiance. In essence, I had placed the one I’m employed half-time over the one that I am paid fulltime.
Obviously, I had my priorities reversed, but for the best of reasons, I thought. The inevitable occurred and I found myself burned-out and at the end of my rope just before my annual licensing review with our District Committee of Ordained Ministry. Acknowledging the situation, I decided to present these facts to this body and let them decide whether my service should be continued under these circumstances.
Then a funny thing happened, I began to laugh. Realizing the folly of it all, that I had placed myself in a “no-win” situation and lacked the time and resources to maintain the impossible schedule that I had constructed suddenly became ironically humorous to me. With this insight, I began to see that the churches I was pouring all my time into, valiantly trying to nurture, grow, and protect, weren’t really mine to play mother hen to. They belong to God.
Not the first time, I suddenly realized that I was guilty of getting in God’s way. Once again, I found myself trying to fill shoes way too big for me and do something that wasn’t part of my calling in the first place. He also showed me something else – the ministry opportunities at my workplace. The myriad and scope of these opportunities far outweigh those of my churches even when combined. Perhaps I was wrong in my assessment of its spiritual impact…
God continues to show me new things since I finally relinquished my will and offered myself to to His service. But they are far different from any lessons I would have anticipated encountering while serving in ministry. Instead of being about growing the church, the lessons that I most frequently seem to encounter are about growing me. We serve an awesome God who never gives up trying to teach us His ways or stops loving us. Keep those lessons coming Lord. With your help I might actually do justice to this job(s) someday.