Thursday, May 7, 2015
Another pointed finger. . .
Read here. . .
I challenge the whole premise -- that life should be easy, that it should be easy to separate and wall off the different aspects of life (pastor, son, husband, father, and just plain old me...). I believe that life is challenging enough when you go with the flow but when you swim upstream (like Christians are called to do). Jesus no where promises us an easy life or a particularly satisfying life -- much less a life centered around me. Jesus calls us to uncomfortable service, to the narrow path of eternal life, and to a life of self-denial in which we dethrone desire from its central focus. He bestows upon us the power, the dynamis, who makes this happen and He give us the blessed opportunity to cooperate with Him in the sanctification of our justified lives.
Pastors have it hard -- not necessarily harder than my wife the nurse, for example, but hard. The hardest part of the pastoral vocation is the realization that not only are we unworthy of the office but incapable of being the kind of pastor we think we should be -- especially when juggling wife, children, and home. I knew that going in. I was given wise counsel that unless I could not be something else, I should not seek ordination. My wife knew my vocation before I even proposed. This was not a surprise all the way around. So I knew it was going to be hard and it has not disappointed me but I can live with that.
What makes my life harder and what I struggle with more than this are things not uncommon to others. I lament the deaths that have stolen my dad, my father-in-law, a half dozen uncles and aunts, and a few cousins this past year. I feel terribly alone and lonely. That is what death does. It does it even to pastors. It does it even to Christians. That is why we long for the real comfort of the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
I have been in this parish going on 23 years and a pastor 35 years and the down side of long pastorates is that the people I bury and the families I console have become friends and, in a very real way, family members. Every funeral is personal and it only reinforces the sadness of death and the urgent need for the Savior who bestows upon us the promise of everlasting life and the blest reunion with those whom we love who have departed this life in faith.
I am close enough to retirement to being thinking about it and I don't like it. I have no desire to reinvent my life and become a different person simply because I do not have a job. So unlike those who count down the hours and minutes until the day when they kiss the job good-bye, I will find another way to continue to serve the Lord in some sort of pastoral way and will continue to do the things that are both my vocation and my love. I am discovering that I am not the only one who does not welcome retirement.
So lets be real here. The opening of the mail or the over scheduling of my calendar or the things I do that others could or should is not the big problem for me or all people. It is death -- the death of memory that steals away our past, the death of flesh and blood that steals away our present, and the death of the grave that steals away our future. Easter is not some pious hope to ease the burden of living -- it is the one face on which my whole life is built and without it I, like you, am of all people most to be pitied. These little articles that presume to tell us how to find an easier way of life forget that the real enemy is death, the real answer is Christ, and the daily struggle of life is to live in this faith and hope as the form of this world and life passes away and we must await the final form of the new heavens and the new earth. I don't need an efficiency expert or life coach to help me find peace. I need the crucified and risen Lord Jesus. And I would suspect you are in the same boat as me. . .