Let’s face it, people are exhausting. They always seem to want a part of our soul. They never cease to demand our energy, empathy, focus and time. That is the simple reality of ministry. Because of it, every minister needs to get away to re-charge at some point, even the most extraverted among us. If you aren’t taking a true Sabbath every week, you are killing yourself. That is another post, however.
Perhaps, because people are tiring; or, perhaps because they scare us more than we want to admit, we hide. We hide behind many things. For most of us, almost anything will do. Many of us are good enough to hide behind a holographic wall of transparency that covers our shame better than anything else we’ve ever tried. Though this is paradoxical, it is true. We become masters of revealing about 85 percent of ourselves; more than average people feel comfortable sharing. In so doing we cover over the 15 percent that we must keep hidden at all costs. We also eliminate any chance of real relationship. We isolate, hiding the parts of us we find unlovable; hoping beyond hope that someone will love us in spite of those things we kept so carefully hidden; while never giving them a chance to do so. We even lock God out. That part of our lives is too ugly to look at. We suppress it, throwing it into the basement of our psyches, praying it will stay hidden; knowing it won’t. Living in continual fear that it will spring like a haunted clown jack-in-the-box at any time.
We create a series of masks, or as my wife calls them, “false selves” that we end up believing are real. We become who we need to become and in the process we lose ourselves. It is as if the real us is stranded one a desert island with only a volleyball for comfort and no hope for rescue.
This isn’t a new tragic story. We are simply writing ourselves into an old heart- rending narrative. When Samuel anointed both Saul and David to be the first kings of Israel they became the ill-fated protagonists in a story God never intended to be written. God even warned his people before giving them what they demanded: “I will honour your choice and in so doing you will lose your freedom, and the level of relationship with me that you now enjoy.” The people insisted on having a King and quite by accident their kings became mediators between God and them. God’s warning became reality. While their kings stole the peoples’ freedoms and moneys, it stole their kings’ souls.
No one can mediate between God and people well. Reading those Old Testament stories, isn’t it striking how both Saul and David felt the need to hide? Follow the narrative and you discover both of them inhabiting a lonely, isolated existence that no one was welcome to enter. While they lived very different stories, both became isolationistic. And, isn’t it striking how it was in the midst of the isolation that they made such poor choices that cost each of them so much? The kings that followed each shared the same fate.
So here is the rub: Their story is our story. We are repeating their mistakes, and those mistakes are almost required by the Church we love and serve. The system demands we make them. The system we inhabit, steals the narrative we want to write. In order to write what we were called to pen we have to begin to dismantle the system by living differently as pastors – by living authentically; telling the truth and, like Pinocchio, become real humans instead of living behind the masks we create of necessity or inhabiting the false selves we mistake as real. Without help we will never accomplish this. We can’t do it alone. Our isolation is killing us. It must end or we will die. Having said that, there is hope even in that death; for resurrection is always preceded by death. Where are you in your story?
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