Wednesday, March 19, 2014
I have no pants. . .
When Pastors dream, do they dream of their sheep? Sometimes, though not often, in my experience. But I do have a reoccurring dream, a nightmare of sorts, about the sheep pen. It is typical of dreams that treat the subject of our fears, our inadequacies, and our failings. I had the dream again not long ago. I have had this same dream often enough so that I do not even have to be asleep to have it.
It begins with me waking up on the first Sunday at my new parish. I had just accepted the call and moved there (though this is never actually part of the dream). I wake up late for church (every Pastor's fear at one point or another though some of my friends have actually lived out this nightmare). Anyway, I wake up late and rush to the church with out shower (or pants, as the dream has it later on). When I get there, this is a mission congregation and the facility is a rented movie theater. People are sitting out there in their padded seats sipping a soda and munching on pop corn and theater packs of JuJuBes and Dots waiting for the new guy to enthrall them.
When I get there I realize I have no vestments, which would not be such a big issue if I had put on my pants but now that I have no pants on, the vestments become an even greater urgency. I walk around trying to find something to wear, anything, God help me (a pink apron, a can can, a pair of overalls, a long trench coat...). All of this takes enough time to stretch out into a dream that never ends, never resolves, and always leaves me in a cold sweat. And then I wake up. Strangely, I am not even comforted by the reality that it was all just a dream (well, nightmare). The fear of being unprepared is a threat that remains even when the dream is but a memory.
Though I have been a Pastor for 34 years, I live with the constant awareness of all the things that make me unfit to be a Pastor. Some of them are the ordinary flaws and failings of personality and temperament. Some of them are the particular fears of having people know the struggles of my heart and the worries about what they might think if only they knew my weaknesses. Some of them are the evils within my own heart that I must daily war against with the weapons of the Spirit. And some of them are the typical anxieties of the faux pas and misspoken words (like the time I repeated sWWWord instead of letting the W be silent).
I have not polled the clergy to find out whether this kind of thing is normal of not but I would be suspicious of any Pastor who did not daily wrestle with some of these things. Pride goeth before a fall. I have enough pride to result in a ton of falls. But underneath all that pride, bravado, and confidence, there are the ordinary fears of failing those whom I serve. Lord I believe; help Thou my unbelief. Those are the words that resonate within the nightmares and daydreams of my weaknesses and flaws. Deliver me, Lord, lest I become more hindrance than help to the work of Your kingdom.
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Though women aren't to be clergy (not allowed to be), and I have no 'position' in the church, I am plagued by these types of dreams, too. For years after I graduated from college, I would dream I was asleep, head down on my desk. I would startle to wakefulness, then be disgruntled I was safe in bed. I won't go into details about into what those dreams have shifted.
So I must assume pastors aren't singular dreamers.
As to being unfit for the Office, no man is. No one is 'fit' to be a child of Christ. There's a lot of silliness in Evangelicalism about fulfilling God's dream (yes, I know we're not talking about the same type dreaming, but even Evangelicals smudge the lines). I'd say our very natures choose to remind us of that folly.
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