A while ago, a church member dropped off a bunch of books that she thought I’d be interested in.
One of the books were a collection of blog entries from Gordon Atkinson titled, RealLivePreacher.com because (get this) he blogged at reallivepreacher.com (I don’t think he updates the site anymore).
Today (I usually write days before the posts go live), before my trek home from the office, I decided to read a couple of entries (chapters?) to see what this guy was about. And for some reason, and I can’t exactly explain why, the entry “The Preacher is Tired” really stuck out and I was glad to have kept reading to get to this entry.
The entry just resonated with me. I don’t know how. I don’t know why. Maybe it was his language and honesty, and the fact that how we all, as preachers, have felt that way. But it made me smile. And it made me think — though nothing in particular. On Sundays. Ministry. On why this post really resonated with me. It may sound like he’s complaining. Or just burnt out. But, I didn’t see it that way. Just someone who was particularly tired from (maybe a particularly) the Sunday morning. I don’t know.
I do know, though, that sharing this entry of his helps me keep a commitment I made to myself to keep this blog updated at least once a week.
Anyway, here’s the entry for The Preacher is Tired and just note, I’m quoting the entire chapter, including words that are not very “Christian-friendly.”
Sundays can be a bitch.
I get up way before daylight and head for church. I open up the joint. I putter around and straighten hymnals. I make ready. I preach the sermon three or four times. I talk to myself. I talk to God out loud. I light candles and pray. Sometimes I throw a nerf football around the sanctuary while I get my mind straight. You should try that sometime if you can find a church that will let you get away with it.
None of this is what makes Sunday hard.
What’s hard about Sunday is that I don’t matter on this day. Sunday is for the folks who come to church. It’s their day and not mine. I must be “up” when everyone arrives. I must be emotionally ready.
Anyone who has children understands what I’m talking about. If you are a daddy, you always make the left turn and take your paycheck and yourself home to your kids. One day you may feel like turning right and leaving town, but you don’t. How you feel on one given day is not really the issue.
I believe love is primarily a choice and only sometimes a feeling. If you want to feel love, choose to love and be patient.
Okay, so when I made a commitment to shepherd these people, I made a conscious decision to love them. That commitment is more important than how I feel on Sunday morning. I will be there early. I will set things up. I will do the early morning candle/praying/nerf thing. I will be ready.
I do this every single Sunday. I do this when I am sad. I do this when I am depressed. I do this when I am hurting inside.
I do this many Sundays when I don’t believe in God.
On those days I stare at the door to the church in the dark. The silence of the building is reminiscent of the silence of God. I say, “fuck it” and go on in. I do the candle/prayer/nerf thing. I make ready. I will be glad to see them. I will love the children. I will stop for a moment and talk to the woman who needs too much. I will preach, one more time.
Fidelity to commitment in the face of doubts and fears is a very spiritual thing. I don’t suggest it for the weak of heart or if you are in a hurry. An old preacher once said, “Until you’ve stood at the door for years and knocked until your knuckles bleed, you don’t know what prayer is.”
I’d like to have met that preacher.
I wonder how much longer I’ll do this? I have no idea. I live week to week.
On Sunday after church I feel numb all over. I mean that literally. I AM NUMB. I got nothin’ left for nobody.
The Preacher lives for Sunday night. Sunday night is when I matter. On Sunday night I sing the Song of Myself. I pop in the latest thing from Netflix, drink too much diet coke, and eat more than I should. I settle into the couch and take care of myself.
I do this every Sunday night except I didn’t tonight. Tonight I wrote this. And the Preacher feels better. And the Preacher is going to bed.