I am in serious withdrawal.
And I am not referring to giving up Christmas sweets or the crass materialism that threatens to gobble us up and spit us out this time of year. This is withdrawal of another kind. Ministry withdrawal.
No sooner did I jet out of town following our two Christmas services, then I started to remember the people I live with and minister to at our church. I thought about so-and-so's surgery, whether or not certain individuals were spending the holiday alone, what it looks like for so many to soldier through the season with fractured relationships, unanswered questions...and doubts. I shook my head as I heard of several individuals who experienced searing loss at the time of year when all is supposedly "merry and bright."
My heart, it seems, was in two places at once. For some, this is parenthood; for others, it is the pastorate.
Eugene Peterson described it this way: "The pastor's question is, "Who are these particular people, and how can I be with them in such a way that they can become what God is making them?"How, indeed.
For this is a messy proposition. A mixed-up bag of highs in one meeting and deep lows in the next. Hot tears and deep joy. Hospital visits, and graveside services, and Bible teaching, and subversive acts that point towards God's advancing Kingdom while the world screams comfort and materialism and the ordinary. Looking for the uncomplicated and straightforward? One need not apply here.
But suppose one's heart beats for transformed hearts and changed lives and the new things Jesus ends up doing with and through ordinary folk. Then the rollercoaster becomes the ride of your life and withdrawal brings its own rewards. I am investing in the hearts of lives of those who matter to my Abba, and he is doing the rest.
I am trusting that all of it matters, even when I don't see how.
"Christian spirituality means living in the mature wholeness of the gospel. It means taking all the elements of your life - children, spouse, job, weather, possessions, relationships - and experiencing them as an act of faith. God wants all the material of our lives."
Did I mention it's good to be back?
[*The author is new to a temporary assignment as a part-time pastor of evangelism. Proof positive that miracles do happen.]
Your turn: What makes your heart experience withdrawal symptoms? How is God's Kingdom expanding around you in a way that brings you deep joy?
Citations: Eugene H. Peterson. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction (Kindle Locations 41-42, 45-46). Kindle Edition.