One things I enjoy most about being a pastor is being with people. Yes, the study is a sacred place. But that’s not all there is to pastoring. Not by a long shot! The study exists in order to best serve the people. In the study, I prepare, I think, I pray, I ask questions, and I sit very still. In the study, I train my soul to enjoy being unhurried and my mind to be completely present. These things are invaluable when it comes to being with people.
Out in the city-parish, the day can go from a mountaintop (“We just got engaged!” “We bought a house!” “We’re having another baby!”) to a valley (“It’s not working out.” “I can’t believe I did ______.” “I’ve been trying but I don’t see any changes”).
I recently had breakfast with one of my dear friends in our church who is absolutely brilliant, creative, and has a quirkiness about him that makes him an outstanding fit for Seattle and an even better fit as my friend. In a moment of real honesty he said, “After all I’ve done wrong, I wonder if God really wants anything to do with me.” He put down his green coffee cup and then looked away.
As he sat as still as the green mug on the marble table, fixing his eyes on anything except mine, I could empathize. That feeling, questioning, and doubting creates a sickness that only true ragamuffins really can know. I’ve felt that way one more than one occasion and chances are, you have too.
Rather than rattle off a simple answer to ever so complex question, I chose to just sit there, not saying anything with him for a few moments. In the noise of a Seattle cafe, we were quiet; listening for the voice of God. Yes, amidst salmon toast, pastries, and coffee racing by, a girl in her Madball hardcore hoodie doodling in her journal, a UW study group gathering at the next table breaking out books and laptops, there we sat like desert fathers in a cave, asking the big question.
A minute later, my friend, looked up at me and I asked him, “Well, what do you think? Does God want anything to do with you or not?” He sat up straight, rolled his shoulders back, clasped both hands around the green cup, and with humble confidence, he nodded his head and said, “Yes. He does. He does want me! I don’t know why but He does!”
What relief to a tired soul! Though I could have added much more to his answer, I chose not to do so. He’d made the discovery for himself! He believed for himself! He dug down deep, thought about Who his faith is in and swam out in the Lake of Grace. That was a mountaintop for him and I’m glad I got to hike up there too and and take in the view of God’s mercy again. He smiled from ear to ear and we finished our breakfast talking about work, family, and the weekend ahead.
Perhaps you’re wondering about whether or not God’s sick and tired of you because you blew it again. I’d encourage you to pour yourself a cup of coffee in a nice green cup, and give yourself a moment to think again about the one who “loved you and gave himself for you” (Gal. 2:20).