(This was originally written in May during church reopening conversations following the COVID-19 Quarantine in the Spring of 2020.)
I see him sprinting. This pandemic is a marathon, but I see him sprinting every mile. Every time that it seems we might be able to slow down and catch our breath, there’s a new layer that has to be fixed, has to be addressed, and we can’t let off the gas. I see him sprinting and I worry that he’s going to be so completely out of gas that he won’t make it to the finish line – or if he does, he’ll be too far gone anyway.
I see him meeting each challenge that comes his way to the best of his ability, challenges that usually aren’t even remotely related to what he was trained to do. I see him scrambling with his staff to tackle huge projects all at once. Projects that would, in a “normal” time of church ministry, be spread out over a much longer time schedule. Projects that would often involve many volunteers are instead being handled by a small staff out of necessity. Projects that take hundreds of hours behind the scenes (researching, discussing, trying, failing, trying something else, etc.) and in the end, the finished project belies the amount of time and effort that went into it.
I see him wrestling with the emotional drain of caring. You see, he didn’t go into pastoring because he likes to tell people what to do, or because he likes to preach at people. He went into ministry because he loves God, loves God’s people, and wants to help others. He went into ministry because of his compassionate heart – and his compassionate heart is hurting so much as he looks at the pain of our world right now. His compassionate heart is hurting because he knows his congregation is hurting, and there’s only so much he can do to help from a distance – he’s doing the best he can, but the best he can isn’t good enough for some, and that hurts.
I see him wrestling with Scriptures like Hebrews 10:25 and the importance of gathering together alongside of Scriptures like Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 and what they say about the Christian’s call to submit to our governing authorities, and the many, many calls in Scripture to “love one another” and how that applies to our church’s decisions about public health safety. I see him wrestling with the balance of these Scriptures, how they apply to us today, how to lead our church in following them, and how to put aside his own personal feelings about the virus or the government in an effort to be faithful to God and His Word.
I see him watching as the country (helped along by FaceBook) continues to rise to the boiling point, knowing that the moment will come when he and the other elders of our church will have to make a decision and people will be unhappy. It doesn’t matter what the decision is – some people will be unhappy. We are all hurting. Hurt people hurt people. He knows that, and he knows that hurt people will hurt him. He knows that people who are angry at other authorities in their lives (whether those authorities are federal, state, county, or public health experts) will turn and take it out on him and the other elders, simply because they are the nearest authorities.
I see him working longer hours even though on the surface it may seem like he has less to do. But everything he does that is visible has hours upon hours of unseen work behind it. I see him constantly thinking and praying about what is going on around us and how to help the church, even at home. I see him trying to “turn it off” while he’s off of work, but how do you punch out on something that is constantly evolving? How do you ever stop thinking about it? When news comes on the weekend that affects your situation, people will expect you to have something intelligent to say about it come Monday.
I see him exhausted. I see him cancel his week of vacation time because a) we can’t go anywhere and b) the church needs him right now. I see him exhausted because it’s been over 6 months since his last vacation time (aka mental health by separation time), but he presses on anyway.
I see him trying to care for and lead his staff well, when they’re all in the same boat of being equally unqualified to do many of the things they’re being forced to do. I see them doing their best and wondering if it’s good enough.
I see him reaching outside of himself and initiating conversations with other local pastors to share ideas and try as much as possible to be on the same page, because all of these pastors are just trying to do their best and show love to their community.
I see him desperately trying to create a plan to reopen our church, even though the target of what/how that looks is constantly moving. I see him trying so hard to be ready to open as soon as we are allowed to, because reopening isn’t as simple as declaring “we’re open.” I see him trying to care for the physical safety of others when we reopen because it’s his responsibility to do so, even though he isn’t a public health safety expert, all while knowing many people won’t care or follow the guidelines anyway.
I see him trying to be creative, to come up with new ways to minister online, even though he doesn’t enjoy it, because it’s all we have right now.
I see him doing his best while being judged by others that it isn’t enough or isn’t the right thing to do, for any number of reasons.
I see him. Do you?
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