Month: February 2016

Nothing Left to Give

lassie-di

What was that Lassie? My ability to care fell down a well? Huh. Well, screw it all, then.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of year again, and I just don’t care. My euphemism is “I’m feeling down.” And it’s true. At first I thought it was just overwork and exhaustion. Five thirteen-hour days in a row will do that to you. But then I slept. And I was no longer tired.

Still, I did not care.

It’s not as bad as it was a few years back when I finally decided to go and get checked out for depression. I was able to get out of bed, though it still seems like getting out of bed was the worst thing I could possibly do in most situations. I was still capable of dealing with most people, though I had no desire to. I’ve faced darker tunnels and longer days.

Doesn’t mean these days are great.

funny-fry-meme-waking-up-bed

It’s not funny. It’s true.

Last Thursday I went to a regular Thursday appointment to see a certain family. I’m there nearly every week for a variety of reasons that don’t really matter for this post, other than to say they’re all involving ministry and sharing Jesus.

This particular family also knows about my struggles with depression. I’ve shared with them, because many in their family have the same struggle.

One particular woman in the family asked how I was doing on Thursday, and I shared honestly: Not great. “I’ve been having some down days lately. Not terrible, but it’s not been good.” I shrugged. I went about my business with the family.

Friday I got a text from that woman: “Hi Pastor, how are you doing today? Is there anything I can do for you?”

My heart broke. I read the text again. And again. I was not alone. This woman reached out to support me, just to see how I was doing.

She loved her pastor.

The body of Christ reached out to one who was hurting. To me.

Maybe your pastor is well-loved. Maybe he can experience that love. Maybe, though he is a shepherd who faces many hardships, is reminded of his congregation’s support. I don’t feel that support here. Please notice how I phrased that: I don’t feel that support. Perhaps it’s there and I’m blind to it. Perhaps my people love me and don’t have opportunity or knowledge in how to show it.

But in a week of darkness, this woman reached out.

God knows what I need, and he sent someone to give it.

(Please note: My Bride is awesome and has been as long as I have known her. She supports me, too. She has all this week. I do not discount that support at all! However, it’s a touch different receiving support form an unexpected quarter.)

When that woman came to church tonight, I thanked her personally. I wanted her to know how much that simple little text meant to me.

God knows what he’s doing. This week, I encountered this webcomic:

lonely1

lonely2

lonely3-1

lonely4

Very seriously, visit http://adam4d.com/ for some really, really great webcomics.

Again, exactly what I needed.

I am struggling with caring about the flock given to me. The last several posts show how I have been wavering so much on this. Part of that struggle is with the loveliness of the congregation. Frankly, they can be a hard group to love. That shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t.

It does.

Though I long to be like my Shepherd, I am not Jesus. I want to show the grace he has shown me. Oh, it is so hard. In many ways, I simply feel empty.

And another element reared its head this week: Depression. Woo!

And now I’m dried up. Like pottery thrown on the floor, I’m just a shard of the refuse.

Today I got to lead my congregation into grace. And I loved preaching to them. Bible study was such a joy. I played volleyball with some of my congregation. I came back energized. I led a Sunday evening worship service and drove several teens back to their homes. I smiled most of the way.

And then I sit down… empty.

When I think of the individuals of the congregation, this is where I want to be. I think of the man who longs to see his Savior and reminds me so often of Jesus’s love. I think of another man who faithfully cleans the church every week. I think of the woman who struggles to care for her family and still types up large-print bulletins for us. I think of the teen who’s excited to teach Sunday school. These are the people I have been called to shepherd. I know them by name, and I ache, I ache to shepherd them.

And then I think of them as a group… and my heart turns off. I just don’t care anymore.

black_background

I tried to find a picture of “I just don’t care anymore,” but every image included swear words. I’ll let you imagine them here.

What is this? Some symptom of being an introvert? Some element of depression or exhaustion or burnout?

I know this coming week, I’m spending more time at home and not planning on working all those hours. We’ll see if I’m able to do so. I suspect less hours will help me approach people with a heart full of God’s love and not empty. I suspect some rest will also combat my depression.

I also know I’m thankful for that little text. I’m thankful for Jesus using that woman to show love.

Can I encourage you to do something?

Tell your pastor. Call him up. Send him an email or a text. Write him a note. In fact, I encourage you to do something written rather than oral, so he can look back at it.

Tell him you care for him. Tell him you are thankful he brings you the Word. Ask how you can support him – not even the church, but him, as he goes out to shepherd the flock that Christ has placed under him. He may not need that encouragement at that moment. He may not need any help you are equipped to provide.

But simply knowing that one of the sheep cares about the health of the shepherd means so, so much on a dark day.

Tell him.

And even if he never says thank you, let me say it for him:

Thank you.

 

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That’s not creepy at all.

eclectic-playlist-01-august-2014-by-cecilia-bonnet

Eclectic!

So I’m giving a guy a ride to church. He’s showing off a speaker he got that he can hook up to his phone via wifi. He’s scrolling through the music on his phone. There’s some MercyMe. Here’s some country dude. Rob Zombie. OK, so this guy’s pretty eclectic.

But then he turns on a track that’s not musical; it’s some radio preacher, sounds like. He’s got that classic pacing. Solid voice, even if the recording isn’t the best. He starts out, “I want you to remember this principle: Jesus plus nothing equals everything. Jesus is enough, all the time. We don’t need anything else. So often we get that wrong. We think that to be fulfilled, we need Jesus plus something else. We won’t be fulfilled unless we have Jesus plus… a relationship.” And he goes on for a little longer. Good application of Law and Gospel.

The guy next to me in the car is grinning like an idiot. And then it hits me:

That was my voice coming from the speaker.

Look, yeah, I’m used to hearing my voice in church. I use a mic every week. We record my sermons and put them up on Youtube. At this point the sound of my voice doesn’t make me cringe. I’m still not a huge fan of it, but I’ve gotten used to it. But I’m really not used to the sound of my voice coming from a speaker in a car when I’m not speaking.

And I’m really not used to thinking of my pacing and delivery as some sort of classic radio preacher. I was admiring myself without realizing it was me. Is that narcissism? I don’t know.

But then it hit me: This guy had recorded me and seen fit to keep something I’d said on his phone, right next to his favorite music, as something in his regular mix. Granted, the phrasing is stolen shamelessly from Tullian Tchividjian, but if you’re going to steal, steal from someone worth it, you know? Jesus+Nothing=Everything is a solid book, one I heartily recommend.

But still… this guy was recording me. I don’t know if he edited it from a larger sound file (I suspect he did) or he just happened to hit record right at the start of a little snippet. And I don’t know what I think of that. It’s a little scary.

I’m just some guy. I am not worth remembering. I told a Bible study a month or so back that I hope that whenever I leave, they don’t remember me, but they remember Jesus.

I’m not important. Jesus is.

This is a struggle I’ve had for a long time. People love their pastors, and this is right. It is good to recognize and value the one who brings you the proclamations of God, who delivers Law and Gospel, who both points out the splinter in your eye and carries the comfort of forgiven sins.

But if anyone should love me… I want it to be on account of Christ, not on account of me.

Because of that, I always get uncomfortable when someone in the congregation speaks of their love of me. There are a few exceptions; one shut-in in particular tells me, “I love you, pastor,” and I always answer back, “I love you.” This man is amazing and constantly encourages me in Christ. I know that his love is there because of his connection with Jesus and my connection with Jesus. But he’s the exception. Maybe I can just see it more clearly with him, but most of the time when someone expresses gratitude or love or adoration or whatever… I’m just not comfortable.

And then there’s this guy. He’s going through membership classes with me right now, one-on-one. He rejoices in the Gospel. And he’s recorded me and put me on his phone.

Eek.

Does he have the right motivation? Did God use me to convey the Gospel in a way that hit him in just the right way? Is he simply trying to curry favor by making it look like he idolizes me?

I don’t know. I have no clue.

And point of fact, on my end, it doesn’t matter his motivation. I’m still all sorts of weirded out.

So… something new for me this week. I wonder if it’s going to be some sort of normal? I hope not. I’d rather have my members carrying around sound files of Bible passages, but at least this way I know they’re less likely to get false theology!

We’ll see what happens as he continues to grow in Christ!