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