I’ve written in many places about the life-long friendship I enjoyed with the pastor of my youth. Pastor Smitty was dear to me in that way that pastors can be to heart-sick children. He really was a good Shepherd. Kind and gentle. Slow to speak — those who knew him and Miz Betty best would say it’s because he didn’t stand a chance to do otherwise in her presence. Miz Betty was an actress from Texas. She liked her time in the limelight. But she was beautiful and had that sort of soprano voice that could peel the varnish skin back on the ceiling rafters.
Truth be told, I’ve been blessed with a bevy of good-hearted pastors. I can’t say enough about how their goodness shaped me, how their wisdom guided me, how their lives inspired me.
I feel their absence most everyday, often wondering — when the times comes, who will I call to fill that gap?
My father-in-law has been that man to many such people. I wrote about him in Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide? Only in that book, I call him The Missionary because for many years that’s what he was. He and my mother-in-law and their two young children, went into Ecuador on the heels of the Jim Elliott slaying. My husband grew up alongside Steve Saint. My in-laws youngest boy, known to my children as Uncle Mark, was born in the field. (Not literally, Ashley and Shelby. It’s a manner of speaking among missionaries. Not like when Shelby was born in the hallway, so Ashley assumed she was born in the kitchen. Family story.)
Anyway, like I was saying, my in-laws have been the kind of Shepherds to hundreds that Pastor Smitty and Miz Betty were to me.
I have no idea what kind of pastors you’ve had. I hope you’ve had some really wonderful ones. Somebody you could call when that moment came and you needed a gentle soul at your side, to pray with you, to speak wisdom into your life, or have the wisdom to know not to speak at all.
Paul Young, whom many of you know as the author of The Shack, sent me a note. His son’s best friend was killed in a tragic accident recently. I don’t think Paul would mind me telling you that Adam was like an “adopted” son to him. Any of you who have raised children understand exactly what Paul means by that. At the boy’s memorial service, Paul prayed this prayer that he wrote:
how silently you slipped away…andnone of us were ready.
was torn in two…but
to let you through,
again a tree became a door
and there you go…headlong…into the waiting arms of Jesus,
what love is all about,
why children dance,
where songs are born,
and who it is who mends the brokenhearted,
with shattered tears remain,
our feet now stilled
our songs just scattered in the wind
but as we tell the memory of your life and love
we understand better what a friend is,
and soft but sure
the seeds of hope
Oh Father, love our brother, son,
in your embrace as in our own
And Spirit, please wipe away his tears
for death has died so now he truly lives
And Jesus, tell him how he’s missed,
what we would trade for one last kiss,
Yet even now,
amidst the ashes of our grief,
the seeds of hope
Wm Paul Young
Don’t we all long for someone to speak into our lives, and over our graves, with the sort of love and devotion that Paul had for Adam?
I know I do.
That’s why I was stirred by Mark Galli’s troubling article The Most Risky Profession in Christianity Today.
You must read the article. It’s one of the best analysis of the hazards of ministry in today’s culture, in which everybody demands to have a Rock Star pastor.
Answer me this, c’mon be truthful — Do you pray for your pastor and his/her family ?
And if you are a pastor or in some ministry capacity, what do you think of Galli’s analysis that “Most pastors have become heads of personality cults. Churches become identified more with the pastor—this is Such-and-Such’s church—than with anything larger. When that pastor leaves, or is forced to leave, it’s devastating. It feels a like a divorce, or a death in the family, so symbiotic is today’s relationship between pastor and people.”