Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Finished But Not Complete
Someone once told me that if you want people to evaluate a Pastor, pick housewives (or house husbands). They explained that Pastors do pretty much the same things week after week and often have little concrete results to show for all their labors. You finish one sermon and begin another. You finish one class and begin teaching another. You finish visiting the sick and begin visiting again the next day. Housewives (and house husbands) understand this because their work is repeated in the same way. They finish laundry and begin a new load. They finish cleaning and begin it anew. The finish cleaning up only to start cooking and serving a meal again...
In contrast to this there are many men and women whom I know whose work leads to concrete results. For example, we have some builders in our congregation who can drive down a road and say "I built that house." We have teachers who watch children come and go and can say, "I taught that boy English or that girl algebra." We have nurses who can say, "I worked to bring that person from near death to life" as that person walks out of the hospital.
As I thought about this, I began to realize that in contrast to the concrete results, Christian life is repetitious. We do the same things day in and day out and often it seems we are making little headway. Like the ever growing pile of laundry, we look in vain for signs that we have improved or become better or holier. We confess our sin, receive absolution, only to sin and require confession and absolution again. We finish one prayer only to begin another.
Sometimes as Pastors, we become disappointed that we have no concrete results -- we cannot always point to the ever increasing numbers of members or financial figures. Sometimes they even decline. As Christians we are in the same boat. Our lives in Christ are not clean lines of improvement in behavior, piety, holiness or even faith. We gain and lose every day -- the cycle of repentance that defines our Christian lives acknowledges this movement back and forth.
But that is okay. We finish but are not complete -- in other words, we end one task or one day in our Christian lives (as lay people or Pastors) and we acknowledge that we are still not complete. So at night we rest in the confidence -- not that we are completed -- but that for now, we are finished -- until God begins His work in us anew with morning comes.
As time goes by I find this more comforting and less frustrating. Maybe I have gotten used to it all... or maybe I have learned in this to be content, knowing that I may finish a few things but God has not completed His work in me or through me... until that day comes when I close my eyes in sleep here on earth and awaken them in glory in heaven.