I had a troubling experience with a doctor recently. I had a routine exam on December 13 at which time my primary care physician performed a variety of tests, taking a sample of many different fluids from my body. On Monday, 17 days after the exam, the same doctor left a voice mail message on my phone. She explained how I was fine but that I had an infection and needed to be treated immediately. She was calling in a prescription and instructed me to pick it up and start taking the antibiotic to treat the infection.
The doctor called 17 days after my exam to tell me that I was sick! She allowed me to continue with an infection that was untreated for over two weeks. And, I was a bit troubled. How is it that a doctor could wait this long to call her patient, I asked the nurse. The response I got was not satisfactory enough to make me want to return anytime soon.
At the same time, I am troubled by how she did not ask me anything about how I am caring or not caring for my body. The numbers on my chart were proof of my post-marital bliss that has added many, many pounds to my body. I have gained enough weight this year that a doctor should have noticed and asked me about it. But, she never said a word.
I wanted to be held accountable. I wanted to be pushed to live a healthier life. I wanted to be reminded of how important it is for me to eat a well-balanced diet and exercise regularly. But, she never said anything to me. She allowed me to get by without a word.
I was sick, and I never even knew it. I have gained weight, pushing my BMI to an unhealthy number. But, my doctor never said a word.
And, while I am completely annoyed, I also realize that we, as pastors, do the same thing all of the time.
We know what a blessing it is to worship regularly, how the practice of worshipping together on Sunday mornings brings us into a closer relationship with God and one another. We know the power of seeking God's forgiveness while also seeking to be reconciled to one another. We understand how the only way to ever see how much God has given to us is to also generously give back to the church and others. We have been reminded time and again of the blessing of serving others - how we understand our true call in life when we regularly serve the needs of others. We have experienced the blessing of being in a small group. And yet, so often, we forget to tell others what it means to be spiritually healthy. We fail to hold the members of our churches accountable. We neglect to encourage people to fully swim in the waters of baptism, to soar with the winds of the Spirit, and to taste the goodness of the Lord.
I was reflecting recently after reading the blog of a friend who started a discussion about whether or not pastors should know what people in their churches give. As I read the comments, I reflected on the time when I was working in seminary admissions but still ordained. I was fully ordained - a person set apart. But, if you looked at my record of giving it was anything but satisfactory. I was selfish. I was hoarding my resources. It would be an embarrassment to think about how little I was giving to the church. I shared with my colleague how I would give anything if a pastor or the church would have held me accountable at the time. I wish that someone would have told me just how much joy I was missing by not sharing abundantly. I wish someone would have told me that I was on spiritual life-support and far from being a spiritual leader.
I want excellence. I want to be the best I can be. I want my doctor to tell me the same thing - how she expects this of me. I want her to tell me immediately when I am not healthy. I want others to do the same when it comes to my spiritual health. And, I wonder. I wonder if others want the same from me.