When the loss feels more significant than the gain

it's lonely at the top
By Benefit of Hindsight on Flickr

“I can’t do this anymore,” I told my beloved.
“Can’t do what anymore?” she said.
“I can’t do any of this — alone — anymore,” I replied.

* * *

The preaching moment is a fantastic example of the consequences of pastoral ministry. During the preaching moment, regardless of whether the sermon is delivered from the pulpit or standing on the floor in the midst of a seated congregation, the clergyperson stands alone. The congregation is seated, typically silent, listening to the clergyperson expounding on sacred scripture.  The moment of focus is almost completely on the person preaching.

For those who appreciate the spotlight, the lure of preaching, and consequently ministry, is strong. The authority given to members of the clergy, the authority with which the preacher speaks, and the authority on which the message rests is unique amongst public speaking moments.

The lure of attention, the lure of the ability to speak in an authoritative manner, the lure of being the focus is great — often inescapable.  This is the temptation that some of us face, to leap headfirst into pastoral ministry because of the idea that we have about it.  Like many other professions, the reality is much different than the ideal.

* * *

When one stands alone apart from the congregation, one is truly alone, much like in the service for Ordination of a Minister of Word and Sacrament

In the preaching moment, the clergyperson is not actually apart from the body of Christ, but holds a particular role within the body of Christ. Although theologically, the pastor is not at the top, functionally, this often happens this way, and as the idiom goes, “it’s lonely at the top.”

I lost the ability to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the body of Christ, I lost the ability to be ministered to each week, I lost the privilege of being able to fully enter into the worship experience each week, I lost the ability to hold up and be held up by the body of Christ, as I now have to be very selective of those to whom I go for care and support.

* * *

Ministry is a privilege, but it is a privilege that comes with great loss, and many times that loss feels much greater than that which is gained.  Perhaps this is a hidden grace, to learn to cope with loss and still to learn to see God.

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