Before the sun even rises I lay in bed and the burdens and the joys of this calling fill my heart and mind. I swing my legs over the side of the bed and pray a quick prayer. “This is your day, Lord. Give me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to understand.”
I walk into the kitchen. The mundane must be accomplished. The dog needs to eat. The bottle for the baby needs to be filled. The trash needs to be set out for the trash man to pick up. As the coffee drips and the aroma fills the house the day begins to form in my mind.
I need to finish my sermon for Sunday morning. I haven’t figured out what to do with that verse, the one everyone always argues about. How am I going to make it clear while respecting the way others see it differently? I probably need to look back over Sunday night’s sermon that I finished yesterday. What was that I needed to pray for from that late night text? I need to meet with that couple. I need to visit the dear old saint just home from the hospital. I need to make that hard phone call. I need to…
The baby is awake. His cry interrupts my train of thought. From the moment he shatters the quiet of the morning the pace quickens. I get him up and give him his morning bottle. His cry awakes his four year old sister and the quiet the house enjoyed a few minutes before won’t come back until bedtime. What a joy! My wife is the last to rise and she begins breakfast.
The table is filled with laughter and details of the day ahead for them. The dishes are washed, the coffee refilled, and I step out into the brutal heat of this Texas summer to make the short walk to the small church office where the rest of my morning will be spent with books thrown all over the room and walks around the office where I will argue with myself over the turn of phrase in the middle of the second point of my sermon.
The burden of preaching faithfully, preaching to thirsty souls who need the grace of God never quite lifts from the heart of a pastor. My heart is weighed down knowing my own need and a wave of fear. I preach because I am called, but, also, if I am totally honest, because deep down I have a need to be loved and accepted. I hate the presence of this fear, but it seems to always be there.
My morning ends as I check my phone, see the texts and missed calls, and decide it is time to walk home for lunch.
The hour I am at home for lunch is a nice break. The conversation with my wife is the first conversation I have had since breakfast. Her listening ear and her soft heart are a respite from the loneliness of the empty church. We eat and I play with my babies. It goes by way too fast.
I argued with my four year old about her nap. How can I call others to show grace when I am so awful at showing her the same? I am frustrated. I am disappointed in myself.
The afternoon is filled with meetings, phone calls, and texts.
It wasn’t planned this way. These interruptions, these divine moments, seem to make up a lot of what pastoral ministry turns out to be and that is a good thing.
Prayer sustains me through these encounters. Prayer for the couple struggling in their marriage, struggling to communicate and love one another in a way that keeps their promises. Prayer for many of our people who have received bad news from the doctor, have had surgery and are trying to recover, are walking through a valley of suffering and the unknown. I don’t have the answers and I don’t need them. I just have to be here and pray.
There is a knock at the door to my office. Another burden to help with, another person to pray for. What a joy to be trusted with their hearts and their honesty. Ministry is made up of these relationships and they consume this afternoon.
It is time to go home. My wife has given herself to our kids all day. She is tired. She needs a moment of quiet. She needs a helping hand. One more call to make. One more text I need to respond to. One more sentence to type and then revise on this sermon.
My day in the office is done. But, ministry goes home with me.
Supper is cooking on the stove. My four-year-old daughter is captivated by her favorite cartoon and the baby is crying. I pick him up and his smile makes the long day worth it. We sit on the couch and watch the same episode for what seems like the hundredth time with his sister.
We all gather around the table to eat. The baby in his high chair is reaching for more food. The four year old doesn’t like green beans. Can she just eat goldfish?
The table is cleared and the dishes are washed. The gravel of the church parking lot is crushed beneath the tires of my daughter’s bike as I remember I need to call and check on a few people, let them know their church is with them and praying for them.
It is bath time now and in between washing their hair and trying to avoid getting soaked I turn back to that sermon I need to finish. How can I make that truth clear? How can I point them to Jesus? My phone vibrates on the bathroom counter. Another text. Another prayer request. Lord, I need your help. You have called me and you will uphold me. I cannot do this without you.
Bedtime is my favorite time. There are hugs, books to be read, prayers to be made together, and time for me to speak blessings into their ears. This is my most important ministry.
Goodnight, sweet girl. Goodnight, baby boy.
We finally get to sit down and talk and read our novels. I love the way she challenges me out of my comfort zone. I love the way she loves our kids. I love her.
The bottles are cleaned and ready for him in the morning. The coffee is ready to be turned on when I wake up. It is quiet again as the lights turn out.
As I lay there in the bed where I started this day my mind and my heart are filled with joy and with the burden of this calling. My eyes are heavy. “Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for another day.”