Dearly Beloved Readers: I’m amazed that out of the different blog entries I post, the ones that receive the most readers & feedback are those entitled “The Candid Clergywoman.” These are the most vulnerable of my posts. In them, I try to share as honestly from the heart as the computer keys will allow. If I’m going to be completely “honest,” I don’t like to write them. It’s a lot easier to tell you what my dog did last week or which yoga pose taught me about God!
Some days, however, I feel the Spirit “nudging” me to do what I don’t want to do: write candidly about life as a pastor, both the joys and the hurts. Today is one of those days. Thank you for reading & listening with me.
“We’re praying for you.”
I was robed and walking towards the narthex when one of my church members stopped to hug me and whisper these words. I offered a broken “thank you.” He walked on. I felt the tears grow & burn in my eyes. Halfway down the hallway, I turned around and ran back to my office. By the time I got there, I was sobbing. The clock read 10:24AM. Six minutes until worship began, and I was grateful that I gave up make-up, especially mascara, years ago.
I need to get it together, I thought. What if we have first-time visitors? I should go meet them. Are there any announcements I need to make? Why do we buy such cheap, generic kleenex in churches? I could really use some of those with lotion right now.
I took a deep breath and looked in the office mirror. If I could just get the water out of my eyes, surely no one would see the dark circles underneath. I fluffed my hair–not because it dried my eyes but because it made me feel a little better.
I put my hand on the door knob, only to feel the tears rise again. Darn. I took another deep breath, eyes closed, and I could hear those words again…
“We’re praying for you.”
Standing in the dark doorway of a church office, I let those words wash over me. Church members were praying for me. If there were visitors, the church members would greet them. If there were announcements, a church member could voice them. All I needed to do was show up. I was weak, but God was strong. The church’s spiritual leader was weak, but the Church was strong.
I finally emerged and headed back down the hallway at 10:28. The choir was lining up, and I was able to slip into my spot quietly. A couple of people shared prayer requests with me, and I was able to listen dry-eyed. The organist and pianist began the prelude, and we processed in. Everything went as usual, and I was even able to lead the Prayers of the People with a genuine smile. Just before I was to stand for the Scripture reading and sermon, the part about which I was most nervous, the soloist stepped forward. When I heard the first notes of her guitar, the tears started again.
The song was called, “Grace For the Moment.”
I glanced at the congregation to see tears on many cheeks, not just mine. Whether saint or sinner, pastor or parishioner, we share this in common: we all need grace for each moment. Though I had been physically alone in that office only thirty minutes earlier, I was far from lonely. The majority of people in that sanctuary did not even know that I’d been crying, much less why. I did not know why many of them were crying that day, either. Our tears revealed that we needed and wanted the grace that God was pouring into us through worship and prayer. When the final strums of the guitar faded, the moment when I most needed grace arrived. I stepped into the pulpit, quietly thanked her, and invited everyone to turn to the Scripture lesson.
I had walked into church that day with a heart broken by a break-up. While I had the title of “pastor,” the people of St. Luke United Methodist Church were my pastor. I may be a worship “leader,” but what led me into God’s presence were the prayers and songs of God’s people. When I left that day, my heart was not fully healed, but it was closer to being whole again. My eyes were red and raw from cheap kleenex, but God’s presence, with God’s people, was the lotion that I needed to ease the pain.
all good things to each of you,
Read more from Darian Duckworth at her blog.