Friday, September 07, 2012

Scary, I Mean Holy, Business

I happened upon this picture while scrolling through my Facebook feed last Sunday. It was the end of a very long day when I came home with more questions than answers and more tears than joy. A myriad of thoughts were racing through my head.

What does faithfulness look like in this situation when I have been brought into the middle of a pastoral care situation that is downright messy? I have been asked to do something that makes me horribly uncomfortable. God, help me. This is a frightening place to be.

How do I get our congregation to see what all goes into Sunday morning worship, getting more people to help me with so many tasks that need to be done, especially when we are short-staffed, so I can spend Sundays being the most present pastor I can be instead of fighting with a laptop and computer program or tending to details that can be shared?

Why has that person not returned my email? Did I do something wrong?

Well, we had fewer people in worship today than we did the last two weeks. What's this statistic going to say about me when it's reported on the Vital Congregations dashboard? It's a holiday weekend and all, but the denomination seems focused on the bottom line.

There are so many people around us, and 1000 more scheduled to move into new condos and apartments just one block a way a year from now. How will we ever reach them?

God, I know that person is hurting so much. Why have you not answered her prayers? How can I minister to her in a way that brings comfort and hope? I'm at a loss for words.

Look at the schedule ahead. Three evenings at the church. Show me how to be fully present to Craig tonight so he'll be patient with me and the church this week. And how will I ever exercise when the morning commitments start at 7:30 and the evening commitments end after 8:00?

Charge Conference is coming up soon. There is so much vital ministry to be done - so many key roles to be played - such exciting potential all around us. Who will fill these roles?

God, are you sure you want me to be a pastor? There are times when I have no idea what I am doing or what to do next. We have come so far and there are moments where I have a clear idea of where you are leading me and other times when I'm not sure what the next step is to get us there. This is so overwhelming - so scary.

Enough colleagues hit the "like" button when I reposted the picture to tell me that I hit a nerve. The picture says what many of us are reluctant to admit. This odd and wondrous calling is hard at times. While I still believe Mabel was right - that I have "the best job in Washington" - there are moments when I am tempted to believe there are other places I could be that would be so much easier and less demanding - enabling me to live a more balanced and healthy life. Being a pastor is a joy for which none of us is truly worthy - and one that is painfully hard at times.

When I posted the picture, I did not see the bottom words, "but fear is natural, fear is good - it just means you're growing." I'm not sure I would have been so quickly captivated by the picture had I seen the whole thing and not been taken by it's opening upon reading.

As a Christian, I am convinced that fear is not good. Fear is not of God. Time and again, we are told that God is with us. We are not to be afraid.

"When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown."

"Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

I've journeyed with God long enough to know that God keeps God's promises. I have seen God at work enough to know that I am, indeed, called to this place. And each time I become overwhelmed and afraid, I hear God speaking words that cast out fear, calling me to return to God.

It's when I am trying to do it on my own, putting God in second place instead of first, that the fear creeps in. I'm in a different place today. The future is still filled with large mountains that need to be climbed and rivers that need to be crossed. But I have felt the hand of God again. I've been infused with the presence and power of the Spirit. I'm ready to step out once more.

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