One of the two pastorates I currently serve is the same one where I started my career as a pastor back on 1981 after a couple of years working in Kenya. The other pastorate I serve was my wife’s first pastorate and we lived in their parsonage for a couple of years while we finished our Master’s degrees and before we went to Kenya. That means I have a long history with both places.
That history has some significant benefits in my ministry. But there is also another side to having that history. I remember other stuff that creates some interesting thoughts for me. For example, in one of our church buildings, the platform for the pulpit and the choir is about 16 inches above the floor. There is a step but when I first began there over 35 years ago, I ignored the step–when worship began and I was following the choir up in our somewhat informal processional, I simple hopped up onto the platform–that step was an annoyance more than a help.
But when I started ministry there again, I discovered that the platform was much higher than it used to be–either that or my bad knees are much worse that I want to admit. My attempt to hop onto the platform never got beyond the preliminary thought stage before I realized that I needed that step–and a hand railing would be deeply appreciated as well.
In the other pastorate, I regularly drive by hay fields where I used to help my friend during haying season. Tossing bales of hay on to the wagon was hard work and I knew I had done a day’s work when I was done but I did enjoy it. I also got to drive the tractor now and then, which was a bonus. But as I drive by those fields now, I realize that while I can probably still pick up a bale of hay, giving it the toss onto the wagon would probably cause my arthritic shoulders to loudly protest and my knees would begin to tell me that walking around the field after the tractor wasn’t their job.
But even more, I recognize that I am simply tired. Not just physically tired but somehow spiritually tired. I am not in danger of losing my faith–that is probably firmer and more rooted that it was way back then. But I am finding it harder and harder to carry on the work I have been called to do. I do things–but I don’t do them with the same energy level I used to have. I have discovered that I need to space things out more–meetings need to be less frequent. I need to remember that I have to have time and space to rest–a good Bible study with lots of discussion leaves me drained and wanting a nap. When I finish two worship services on Sunday, I mostly want to collapse in front of the TV–and sometimes, it doesn’t matter what it on or even if it is on.
But for all that, I also realize that I bring something else to this stage of ministry. It may be because I don’t have the energy I used to have or because I have managed to gain some wisdom over the years or because God has gracefully helped me but I look at my ministry differently. I have different priorities. I know that I can’t do everything I used to do, let alone everything that could be done so I have learned to think about what I do or should do or could do more strategically. I need to invest my time and limited energy and creatively in ways that will do the most good for the church, which means that I think and pray more about stuff than I used to do–and I feel less guilty about what doesn’t get done.
I could retire and I know that I will retire at some point. But even with the fatigue, I am not ready for that yet. I believe that God has called me to these churches for a reason and I experience evidence of his Spirit working in and through and around me. I may be tired but I am not done yet.
May the peace of God be with you.