July 12, 2006

Occupational Hazard

The pastor does not know how to pray for himself. The pastor does not know how to read the Bible for herself.

When the pastor prays, it's never, "Help me" or "I thank you;" it's always, "Help us" or "We thank you." When the pastor reads, it's never "What does this say to me?" It's always, "What does this say to the community?"

It's not necessarily a caring, generous spirit that keeps the pastor focused on others. The pastor may be caring and generous, and may in fact be very good at what he or she does. But after so many years of ministry, the pastor has forgotten how to take care of herself or himself. "Read the Bible for yourself," the pastor is told; but how does one do that? Everything the pastor reads, the pastor evaluates as to how well it will preach. Everything the pastor hears makes the pastor wonder, "Who else might benefit from hearing this?" Every word of comfort encountered, the pastor thinks of someone in the hospital, or in turmoil, or distress. The word is never for the pastor alone.

The pastor does not know how to take care of himself or herself. The pastor only knows how to take care of the "family" or the "community." The informal benediction "Take care," spoken among friends, leaves the pastor bewildered.

Lord, teach us to pray. No, wait; teach me to pray.


jo(e) said...

I think parenting can be like that too.

Rebecca Woods said...

Thanks Danny. As one still in seminary, I've heard the cautions but I suspect remembering to pray, read the Bible and care for yourself as a pastor is a daily struggle. It helps to see others writing about it because it reinforces 'permission' to oneself to do it!

the reverend mommy said...

OK, back to my fav book of the year "Generation to Generation." (I actually don't think I understood a fraction of it when I read it the first time.)

To have a healthy and well-differentiated congregation one must BE a healthy and well-differentiated individual. How come it's so easy to forget that? How come I have to learn it over and over and over again? Huh?

Just walkin' with you on the journey. (Late, too, but I've been in CPE (good excuse, huh?))