Twelve hours ago I wanted to be right where you are now. Better yet, I just didn’t want to be where I was. I didn’t want to be what I was or even who I was. These sort of Sundays happen for me every now and then – the ones where I feel there couldn’t be a more incompetent pastor in the history of God’s calling. There were multiple points throughout my own teaching where even I was wondering what I was talking about.
Then came the meetings. It took me seemingly forever to be able to leave the church only to have to meet up with more over an extended lunch. All nice people. All good intentions. Nothing over-the-top. But there’s this wall that you hit, really you know that it’s coming far before you hit it because it’s properly labeled “ENOUGH” in giant white letters across the brick facade.
I came home and I couldn’t have been more done in that moment. I didn’t want to write, study or talk to anyone (which in my communal house of four married couples is an achievement unto itself). And, ultimately, I didn’t want to do it again.
Aside: Now, there are numerous bad pastor jokes (they are all bad, really) where everyone quits every Monday morning. And that’s sad. I am not one of those guys. I will laugh politely when one of those guys makes that stupid joke, but I am not one.
But I really didn’t want to do it again. I think my motto a few hours ago would be, “If only I could have a job from 9 to 5, where I could just clock in and clock out and not bring it home with me. I’d have weekends. My wife and I could travel. I’d actually make some money. And best of all, I’m not on the receiving end of phone calls about our budget (under), people’s complaints (over), or having to be all things to all people.
But that’s a lie – a myth built on escapism. I have heard the overtures speaking in the opposite direction: “I’d love to write and be a pastor and just be self-employed like you. You’re your own boss.” True. Even from other pastors, I’ve heard: “I’d love to work in a church like yours – filled with young dreamers and creative types, much better than my own where it takes forever to get anything done.” And true again.
I’m sure if I was pushing paper I would miss this gig. I would miss working wherever my laptop was conveniently located (Panera, anyone?). I would miss meaningful conversations and a feeling of inspiration and purpose – that my job actually meant something.
But earlier I didn’t care for any of those explanations at all. I just wanted out. And as averse as I am to taking the quick ticket, I’m glad there wasn’t one laying around in that moment to grab.
Now it’s 2 am. I’m normally asleep three or even four hours ago. It’s lame, I know, but it’s true. But tonight I can’t sleep. Visions of “this morning went horrible and I hate myself” are playing over and over, replacing the dancing sugarplums from the recently holiday season. I pull a Peretti and pierce the darkness, opening my laptop to check my inbox. And I find ‘the email.’
You know the one before I even describe. The ‘thanks’ one. The one that pulls you back into your purpose and calling and reasons for doing what you do. And of course, she even says, “I don’t know why I’m writing this now…” I do.This is what always seems to happen. As we wrestle with our calling to teach, to paint, to sing, to write, to pastor, to lead, to follow, to endure… we quit again and again, wondering why we are even doing this thing. I feel like there must be countless people better suited for my job than me and that’s a very common thought in my world. But there’s always just enough to keep me moving, to keep me insanely convinced that maybe, maybe I am just the person for this.
Doubt is essential to our calling. I find myself more scared of the people uber-confident in their calling and abilities and writing books telling me that I can be the same way. I think I’m drawn to people questioning, asking “What the hell am I doing here?” My Bible is full of those kind of heroes – the shaking-at-the-knees men and women thinking there are countless people more qualified than they are and wondering why the cosmos has deferred a particular task, job, position, title or dream upon them.
So I guess I don’t want to trade spaces with you. Or anyone else for that matter. When I look at the company I happen to be in, it’s not so bad after all.
Matt Conner is a freelance writer and music journalist. As the founding pastor of The Mercy House, he led a church community for more than six years in intense community development across racial and socio-economic lines. As a writer, he’s interviewed thousands of musicians for multiple print and web-based publications.