I don’t know how else to process what just happened. The only thing that makes sense to me is to blog about it, only I don’t want to blog in full detail because what if I’m wrong? What if the scenario I’m about to describe was real, even though every ounce of evidence I have tells me it’s not? What if, as a pastor, a minister, the shepherd of people’s souls, I made a mistake?
The solution is to not blog about the specifics – other than to say that my kindness, my innate sense of wanting to help people in need, is one of the most effective weapons against my soul. I can’t help it. I’m always willing to give people more leeway than they deserve; I could be happier, in cases like this one, if my natural instinct were defensiveness. To cut people off. To not be giving. To not trust, or at the very least, not be wiling to listen. I could avoid a lot of heartaches that way.
The thing is, though, that too many people need someone, anyone, to just listen. I don’t want to cut off that part of my ministerial self. I’ve seen too often how much it can bless the right person.
But then there are days like today when people prey on that kindness. They count on people like me being willing to err on the side of doing what’s right and good, and they construct elaborate webs designed to extract maximum empathy.
And what really sucks – the thing that I can’t get out of my head – is that I so badly want to spell out the details, put it out there for the whole world to read, and I can’t. I want people to know so they can be forewarned about stuff like this, but my brain keeps saying: but what if it’s true?
What if, despite the fictional county in Mississippi, the fictional city in Mississippi, the fictional address here in Georgia, the fictional brother here in Georgia, the dead-end phone numbers and the non-existent sheriff’s deputy, there was someone who needed my help and I let them down?
What if, God help me, the people actually show up at the church, put a finger in my face, and demand to know why I didn’t do something?
This is the price of being a pastor. It may seem like a sweet gig (and I hear enough comments from folks to know that a lot of people see it that way) but the reality is that if you are truly someone with a pastoral calling, a pastoral heart, it’s demanding in a way that few people could ever imagine. It doesn’t begin and end with the sermon, or the visitations, or the admin stuff in the office; it’s not over when the office hours on the door say the day is done; nor is it finished when you’ve done all you could for someone and they still choose to make a wreck out of their lives.
I mean, you know you have no responsibility for what any one person does, but the compassion and desire to help people choose God in order to avoid the devastation of sin is also the stuff that keeps you up at night, wondering if you could’ve done anything different.
It’s an agony that gets increasingly harder to bear. There are plenty of nights that it keeps me up, wondering, praying and wrestling with God to help me do a better job so that people might not have to suffer as much as they do.
And, to be honest, that I might be able to stand before God one day and say that I did my very best. And for God to say, “I know.” And for me to fall into His arms and say, “Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
As a human being, as a minister, that’s not too much to ask, is it?