Wow. I didn't realize until today how long it had been since I last posted. It has been a remarkable week. For me, the theme of the past week has been pastoral care. It is interesting that days can pass, even a week or more, when no one at all comes in to talk. Then a week like last week, and I have three or four pastoral issues per day.
Pastoral care is true "in the trenches" ministry. And it can get messy. There is such pain, such sadness in the world. The despair of loneliness is sometimes too deep to climb out of. The hopeless feeling of alienation can paralyze. The pain of grief can cut more sharply than any knife. In the midst of all that, people come to the pastor for help.
I had been an Associate Pastor for one week when a young woman came into my office with suicidal thoughts, needing someone to talk with. As if ten days of "School for Licensing of Local Pastors" had prepared me for that! Yeah, I was licensed. Sure, I was the Associate Pastor of the congregation. But the only thing that gave me any sort of credibility to provide care for her was the authority and trust she herself invested in me. That, and the grace of God.
In the five and a half years since that first pastoral care conversation, I believe I have grown and learned a lot about what it means to be called "pastor." And I have to say, the prospect of providing pastoral care no longer terrifies me quite as much as it once did! Four years of seminary, studying with Dr. Jeanne Hoeft, taking a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education with Rev. Jackie Thomas, and a lot of good "on-the-job training" have given me a set of care-giving tools I am learning to use with confidence. But still, a week like last week really exhausts me, even while providing a satisfying sense of fulfillment. It is, as mom always said, "A good kind of tired."
I am so thankful that I have a caring and supportive church with an active and healthy Stephen Ministry. I am thankful to be a part of a loving, honest, and mutually accountable covenant group. I am so thankful that the church has dedicated, talented, and passionate staff that I can rely on when there is a rough week or two. And I am indescribably thankful for the care and support of my family, without whom I cannot imagine how I would possibly maintain my emotional balance.
All things considered, I am pretty happy to call myself a pastor. At least this week ... ;)