“…they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” — Genesis 3:7
I’ll have to go back to my graduate studies for this one.
My pastor was on the the Board of Covenant Theological Seminary, where some friends and I were studying. When he would come up from Birmingham for Board meetings, he would take us out for dinner. This was always a highlight. You know, free food and all.
One night we were all sitting around talking and he asked how our studies were going. I can remember where I was sitting in that Longhorn Steakhouse when I told him I was having trouble with how the content was not only continually challenging me on an academic level (which I expected) but it was leveling me emotionally (which I had not expected).
My studies had become a huge part of my sanctification. And not just in how I did them but in the very content. I can’t remember all he told me but I remember walking away with an understanding of my need to embrace it and see it all for my good. I needed to roll with it knowing I’m not justified by my grasp of the content or even my growth in it.
This is the way it’s supposed to be.
Fast forward. Last November — for the first time since 1997 when I started pursuing ministry — I was seriously thinking about not being a pastor. I had looked jealously at the work of the Fed-Ex driver previously but no serious entertainment of leaving the pastorate had been done. But this was different. I was worried about my own emotional health and my family’s. The work was demanding a toll and we were running out of resources to pay the fare. Literally and figuratively.
So we started thinking about me resigning from being an associate pastor. But after our pastor resigned a few weeks later, we knew we could not leave. So we waited. And prayed. And hoped.
And then about 6 months ago the decision was made. I would resign from being a pastor.
There were lots of difficulties to be considered. How would people perceive this? What would I do? What could I do? Will I be happy doing something else? How will this affect the people at church? But all these were pretty easily dealt with compared to one haunting question.
How will this affect my relationship with God?
When you’re in vocational ministry, no effort is required for you’re performance in ministry to be confused with you’re standing before God. The people you serve starting taking on the significance of the Creator of the Universe. Actually, that’s not true. It’s their perception of us we dress up in gilded shiny yellow and then bow down to.
Sure, we are sinful. But we are pastors. And so we cover the shame of our respectable sins with the fig leaf of pastoral righteousness.
I just got one question – What if you are no longer going to be a pastor?
(To be continued…)