Sunday we canceled worship. The roads were hazardous enough that we decided it was better if everyone stayed home. I recorded a miniservice and uploaded it to Youtube so the congregation could still worship as they saw fit. (Judging by the number of views, quite a few of the congregation took advantage of this way of worshiping!) I linked two songs and led a short devotion.
I spent the day with my family after that, leading them in worship, too. It was so good to hear my two older kids singing along to, “Chief of Sinners Though I Be” and “In Christ Alone.” I can see them growing in their faith and walk with Jesus.
Monday hit. I didn’t have to deal with anyone face-to-face. I had scheduled one possible appointment with a person I could just drop in and see, but chose not to pursue it.
Tuesday. And for some reason… I couldn’t handle being with people. I had a few appointments; nothing incredibly stressful. But when I thought about going out… I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I felt nauseous as I thought about meeting with them.
I canceled everything.
My depression takes this form sometimes. I’m fine as long as I’m by myself in my own little box, but you can’t put me in a room with other people. Taking a mental health day is not unknown for me.
But here’s the problem: As I’m getting older, my introversion and depression are starting to work more and more.
Last night, as I contemplated where I was, I realized: I can’t do this forever.
Some day I’m going to have to stop being a parish pastor.
Not today, not this week, and at this rate not for several years down the road. But… I don’t think I’m going to make it to retirement.
My brokenness will not allow me to serve others forever. I can’t serve as a pastor if I can’t handle seeing my people. I can’t lead if the thought of being in physical proximity with others makes me nauseous. I can’t shepherd the flock if I can’t be in the fields with them.
Again: This is not the announcement of my imminent resignation. This is the realization that my weakness means I don’t think I’m going to be able to serve in this capacity for the remaining days of my working career. Sin infects me as it does anyone else; I’m not getting better. I’m getting worse.
It shouldn’t surprise me. I deal with people all the time that seem surprised that their bodies fall apart, too. Old people who have been healthy far longer than average are shocked to learn that they are breaking down. And here I am: I am just as infected. My body is just as fallible. Why should I be amazed that I, too, labor under that great burden of the curse?
But… if that day comes, what then?
What will I do? How will I support my family? How do I say something like this to whatever congregation I’m serving then?
My strength is not strong enough.
And I think of a post that I named but never wrote: “The broken shall sing again.”
And I will sing again.
I do not know how the saga of my life will end. Perhaps these ponderings are moot; I could be hit by a semi tomorrow and die. I could fall victim to cancer. My congregation could suddenly implode and I won’t be a pastor, at least here.
Jesus could come back tonight.
Maybe God’s grace will sustain me, and in my weakness I will be used as a pastor.
Perhaps I will resign in ten years’ time, and God will find a new use for this lowly, broken servant.
Maybe I revisit my doctor and meds and see what happens there. That could give me several years more service. Or reveal that I need to leave even sooner. Doctors are mysterious beings like that.
The future is in his hands. And they are good hands. And he has told me where I will end, though I do not know the path he will use to bring me there:
I will sing again.
In a great throng, in a place where I will no longer run from other people, where I will rejoice to be with them around the Throne, I will sing.
And in singing, I will praise the King who loves a broken man like me.
I don’t know where my road takes me… but I know the One who takes me down that road. And that is enough.
Worries, leave me alone. You cannot shut my mouth forever.
I will sing again.