In high school I was required to take “Honors English” and we spent most of our senior year reading classic English lit. It was Charles Dickens who wrote A Tale of Two Cities. Today I was reminded of the classic opening of this masterpiece. The first line reads, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the season of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”
When you find yourself in a storm, Dickens first line covers the gamut of emotions you often feel. Today I received an email from one of my dearest friends in the world; a senior saint with a great deal of wisdom. She has been reading my blogs, knows more details then most about what’s going on in my life, and is one of the wisest people I know. In her email she talked about a previous blog where I inferred I would need grace from friends and people I formerly pastored. She explained to me, rightfully I think, that I might be asking too much of many people. She explained how the hurt would be “real as people who had heard the Word proclaimed to weather the storm in the end witness the storm breaking the deliverer. It is a scary scene to witness. I am very much aware of how strong Satan is.”
It hurts to acknowledge our shepherd is vulnerable and human and at times we are shocked because we think he “ought to know better.” We rationalize since he knows the teaching of scripture he should be able to ward off the enemy, as though the strategy for fighting temptation is cerebral.
Why do we read of pastors not being able to stay in the fight; not being able to weather the storm? The call of God to be a pastor is unique calling, an unspeakable privilege to be sure, but it can also be unspeakable hard. The enemy is not fond of a pastor’s life’s mission; he is threatened by it, so he is going to attack him.
Another reason pastors sometimes quit the fight and are unable to weather life’s storms is because of the pedestal they are put on. Pastors can make great friends, counselors, and leaders, but they make poor heroes. When a pastor is put on a pedestal, and they fall, it hurts a lot more to fall from a pedestal than it does from the ground where everybody else is standing. Only Jesus belongs on a pedestal. Yes, its true pastors are shepherds… but they are also sheep like everybody else. We pastors have struggles and fears. We sin and withdraw and grow cynical and get depressed and anxious. We often are unsure of ourselves, and we go through seasons wondering if we really belong in ministry. Many of us are more frustrated with ourselves than a church member could ever be with us. Sometimes we see our hypocrisy a lot more clearly than they do. Sometimes we grow more tired of ourselves than they grow tired of us.
Brian Dodd is a “leadership guru” and has a lot of great things to say. He wrote an article about pastors that I want to close with some of the points he made because I don’t think you have to be a pastor to relate to these:
§ Every leader stumbles.
§ If you stumble and you’re not the leader some people may never know. If you are the leader and you stumble, everyone knows.
§ The best part of leadership is people know you. The worst part of leadership is everyone knows you.
§ We can at times think God is ashamed of us… Dodd writes, “Your mistakes do not change how God feels about you. But it may change how you feel about God.”
§ The temptation we face is to think that we must earn God’s love and acceptance though better behavior.
§ We live in a world that quits on you. God won’t quit on you.
§ God often allows the consequences that result from our choices to run their course because He wants to purify us, not penalize us.
§ It’s always too soon to quit. God is not finished with you. We see a scene, a snapshot of what is immediately in front of us. We don’t see the whole movie.
Let's together fix our eyes upon Jesus!