It’s Saturday and I don’t know what to do with myself.
For seventeen years running my weekend ritual has been to use the seventh day of the week to shut myself in the house, keep the TV turned off, and stay bent over the Word of God and the notes He had given me for Sunday’s sermon, tweaking them and generally whiling away the day in the Presence of the Spirit, my Teacher. Occasionally, my van and I would venture out to our “quiet time spot” and stay parked for hours on end, allowing the Eternal Word to filibuster my mind and the Third Person spark on the tinders of my soul until the man was set afire and given the Father’s ringing endorsement as a delivery service.
But it’s Saturday and I don’t know what to do with myself.
I am now a pastor without a congregation. My stained-glass memories will have to suffice and I find them helpful reminders that I am still a man with a call on his life though I do not know what my next assignment will be. So I steal a glance at my home’s all-too-familiar work station, where my sermon paraphernalia would normally have hijacked a section of the dining room table and my heart feels a little squeeze. Sandy’s table décor is still intact, the settings and centerpiece unmoved, no sign of Sunday anywhere.
As I remain fixed here in desultory reserve, questions of “what now?” and “what’s next?” pollinate my mental stigma and everything is…abnormal. Tomorrow a new pastor mounts the platform that has been home to me for nearly two decades and I sigh, not for him but for me. As a shepherd who has loved those sheep, I feel like an unfit parent, a papa with a rolling stone complex though I know this has been in the Plan for some time and my faithfulness in the pastoral role is not in question.
I chuckle now as I recall a conversation Sandy and I shared in our kitchen that set all these past seventeen years in motion.
“I think God is telling me that I am to be a pastor,” I said, watching for any reaction it might yield.
Sandy hesitated, then made a sound like hmmmmm…
“What what?” she blinked.
“What are you thinking?”
“About what I just said!”
“About you being a pastor?”
If duh was in my vocabulary back then, I would have used it.
There was a long space of time then she turned away from the sink and looked straight into my eyes.
“I don’t think you have a pastor’s heart,” she confessed.
I knew she was right. I could sweep into Anytown for a few days, preach and engage for the short-term, then be on to the next assignment; it was how I was programmed, what I was built to do. In the in-betweens I would hide in my cave (home) and recharge my batteries until the next church, school or camp called. Using the metaphor of theater, it is fairly easy to be “on” for the performance (don’t read into that word) then exit the stage and disassociate quickly. Pastoring is a whole ‘nother animal altogether as it requires being “on” all the time, across the span of years, overly exposed, voluntarily observed, painstakingly involved.
I chuckle again as I am afforded the luxury now of looking back. There I sat on a tiny stage on one end of a rented church library, coiffed hair (I had more to kwoff back then) and double-breasted suit, shoes shined to military code and I looked out on maybe seventy or eighty folk who gathered on that brilliant sun-shiny Sunday to celebrate the birth of a fellowship. I, the veteran of hundreds of church services the previous ten years, often preaching before thousands, found myself nervous and uncomfortable preaching before tens. But the people were beaming. They were part of something new. And in my Hybels-slash-Warren eyes-bigger-than-reality dream state, I could only see us going up and up and up.
The next Sunday, reality fell like Damacles’ sword, and I preached to a crowd of twenty.
I’ve seen God add to those twenty through the years, but nothing that would jiggle Richter’s needle much and certainly nothing that would cause Hybels-slash-Warren to turn their dual heads in our direction. But the people love me and know that I love them and would lay my life down for them. They’ve gotten close enough to see the warts and gangrenous imperfections and I’ve let them. And I’m glad I did. I’ve held their babies, buried their mothers, shared their griefs (and they mine), lovingly rebuked, liberally encouraged and earnestly taught, both with my life and the opening of scriptures each week.
Last Sunday was my last as pastor in its official capacity. The house was full; I even saw several I hadn’t seen in a long time. They came to say, you’ve been very important in our lives, Scott. We want you to see us and know we are your crown of rejoicing…I tear up, receiving no praise for myself, but thankful I did, in fact, get a Grinch-like heart transplant. A very close friend wished this upon me: “I pray that when you leave this building today and drive off the parking lot, you will hear the sound of angels standing and applauding a job well done.” I think I did. And I know Who they were standing for.
My pastorate ended on the anniversary of my pastorate’s beginning but with seventeen wonderful years packed between. I set out in a double-breasted suit and sat down in well-worn blue jeans. Perhaps that is a commentary on those years: God gave me a pastor’s heart after all and got me comfortable in the call.
Well, it’s Saturday. I think the van and me’ll head on over to our “quiet time” spot and get before the Lord for the next few hours. I need to get ready for Tomorrow…