Do you ever have weeks where you just want to crawl up under a rock and disappear? Do you ever go through seasons where you wonder if you have completely misheard the voice of God in your life?
These past few days I have felt that way. I have questioned whether or not I should be a pastor, wondered whether or not I will be able to some day lead a congregation. I have been overwhelmed by feelings of my own shortcoming and inadequacies. All of my faults and failures seem to have risen from their dark holes to rear their ugly heads and remind of my vast imperfections. I have found myself wallowing in a strange state of unsettledness, asking myself if maybe I should just scrap this whole “pastor” thing. The voices of my own insecurities and fears have fillabustured in my over saturated seminary burdened brain. You will never be smart enough. You will never know enough. You have made too many mistakes in the past. The list goes on.
I find myself reading pastoral memoirs about the struggles of ministry and wonder if I have what it takes to stand the test of time. I wonder if all the people who have encouraged me through the years saw something that was never really there. I read the words of weary preachers and tell myself that I won’t be like that, but inside I don’t always believe it. Will I be able to come up with liturgies and sermons week after week, and year after year? Will I just bounce around from church to church spending a couple of years here and a couple of years there until the church realizes that I have no idea what I’m doing and lets me go?
Are these the demons that pastors wrestle with? Do the questions and the doubts mean that we aren’t ready? Does failure make us unworthy? As I have found myself questioning and seeing myself as if for the first time there continues to be an inkling in the back of my head that this is precisely where I need to be.
It is only in my surrender and in my recognition of my imperfection that I can begin to even ponder the mantle of pastor.
It is here when I see my imperfections and stare at my checkered past that I find it is in fact my unworthiness that allows me to climb the steps to the pulpit. My very presence as a pastor is a monumental testimony to God’s grace and not to my own achievement and strivings. It is my very brokenness and insufficiency that allow me to preach Christ resurrected and nothing more because I realize that I have nothing of eternal value or merit to offer outside of him lest I should be reduced to a noisy gong or clanging symbol.
It is here when the games and the charades and grades and the masks are all put away that I stand naked before God and confess that I want to love His beloved Church but I don’t know how. I desperately desire to be in communion with the Holy Spirit and to live a life of intimate union with the Trinity, but most of the time God feels a long way away. I yearn to be a vessel that God can use, but I realize that I am clumsy and slow and more stubborn than a wily old jackass. I confess that I am afraid of failure.
Yes, I will be an imperfect pastor. Yes, I will care too much about what people think of me at times. Yes, I will give bad sermons and retell too many stories. Yes, I will forget people’s names. I will make exegetical and hermeneutical errors. Yes, I will make the silly mistakes that pastors before me have made and that I vowed I would never make. Yes, I will be in over my head and not have all the answers.
And now that all of these things are out in the open, maybe I can begin to become a pastor from the inside out and not the other way around. Maybe here at Seminary instead of donning myself with a robe intellectual knowledge to justify and validate my sense of pastor calling I can get to the heart of the issue and address the things that matter most- the very transformation of my own soul.