I want to speak of joy. Anyone who is or has been a pastor, understands the deep joys involved in the work.
In recent days, I have known days that to some, might seem reasons for burnout. But in the midst of these days, I've found joy. Let me explain.
About four months ago, I received the call that a gentleman from my congregation had pancreatic cancer. I met regularly with him and his wife and other family members over the next weeks and months. We prayed and shared our fighting-hopes and finally, hung our heads together when those hopes were gone.
Then our talks became deeper and more openly loving. I told my friend and his wife that I'd travel to a nearby state with them for his final funeral service. He shared with me some scripture and words that God had given him. I used them in his funeral service here, and at the distant site. He said, "It seems to me that God said 'Trust me.' and 'My grace is sufficient for you.'"
On a Monday, I sat with him, his talking coming in brief whispers. His wife told me he couldn't make it long. A hospital bed was delivered to his home, and his son and I helped assemble it, and put the sheets on. Two nights later, he died. It was nighttime, and the family called, saying I didn't need to come.
I hurried to the home, not stressed, but unwilling to miss sharing love with his family in those mystical moments. We sat together for a couple of hours. It was difficult and sad. It was a time filled with peace. The men from the funeral home came and picked-up my friend's body just before midnight.
We prayed. I went home tired, and so fulfilled. THIS is what God has gifted me to do.
On the night of visitation at the funeral home (the night before the local funeral) I had to leave for a while to see a family who's wife and mother had attempted to take her life. I drove the thirty minutes to see them, and sensed comfort moving from my soul to theirs. Christ was with us midst the beeping machines in the intensive care unit. And then I returned to the visitation--fulfilled yet again.
Again I thought, "This is who I am. I am a shepherd. I love people well, because that's how our Lord made me."
But this week I prepare for next week's board meeting. And that doesn't feel so much like shepherding.