That New Pastor Glow

I smeared ashes on Ash Wednesday. Person after person came to receive marks of their mortality and the grace of God. The faces were new to me, but will soon become dear as this was my first service in the church that has called me to be their Pastor for Justice, Spirituality, and Community.

Quite a title, huh? It makes me want to leap with joy and lie prostrate in prayer all at once.

In my work as a cross-cultural trainer, we called this stage of transition the honeymoon stage. And I have to say, I am absolutely thrilled with everything. The honor of giving ashes. The gift of hearing people's stories, hopes, and dreams. The potential to make a profound impact on this world in a job that seems made for me. My awesome new colleagues dropping into my office to chat about their ideas. An office of my own after years of writing papers in my bedroom and coffee shops. I am undeniably, sickeningly, idealistically happy about pastoral ministry these days.

I know all of you seasoned vets out there are smiling because the honeymoon will invariably end, and there will be days that are hard and endless. I will be exhausted beyond what I can imagine. I will cry tears of frustration, anger, and helplessness before long. I will hit walls within myself, in the church, and in the world. I know that is coming.

But today, I will resist the temptation to make apologies for my happiness. When I worked with cross-cultural ministers, I encouraged them to write their call stories to get them through the tough times. These are the mountaintop transfiguration moments where everything is so clear. This is the moment of walking across the Jordan River into Jericho and collecting stones as a reminder of the faithfulness of God in all that has been, as a promise for what is to come. These moments come rarely for most of us, only a few times in a lifetime, but they are a gift. And it is these moments that carry us through the foggy, painful, and stretching days when God's call seems very far off.

In my honeymoon stage, I encourage you to remember. What got you into this in the first place? What are those hopes and ideals that you carried with you into your current position? Tarnished and lost as they may be, do they provide any clues for a way forward? Is there any encouragement there for your current frustrations?

After the desert, comes the vision. After wandering, the promised land is entered. And then we begin the circle over again, carried through despair and elation by a God who is always calling us into greater wholeness and deeper into the heart of the world.