I’ve sat down with three different pastors this week. They have wildly different personalities, life experiences, and circles of friends. They don’t know each other and are only tied together by my own story. One was a church planter. One was a retired professor and pastor of large churches. One watched God grow a church from a small and hopeful bunch to a booming metropolis.
What they share in common is war stories. They thanklessly though still passionately sought vision for their churches and paid for it. One rose higher. Two fell and got up again. All three are now vessels of grace because of it.
I love these three guys, and I love that they are so different. One is whimsical and warm. One is quiet and matter-of-fact. One has the grizzly charm of a veteran. All bow before the same God, and that God looks at all three in their diversity and is more than well pleased.
One told me about trying to plant a church and raise money on nothing but faith, only to have God deliver unexpected gifts on exactly the day they were needed. God could do a better job of planning ahead, we both agreed.
One tells me when he calls, “I greet you in the majestic name of Jesus!” If it were anyone but him, I might think they were being corny. But his voice is golden and bright, and has the sound of a General on the day after the armistice is signed.
All three prayed for me without me having to ask.
This week, here in sabbath rest, I got to experience something that I haven’t experienced in a long time as a pastor. I received pastoring. Pastoring is not so didactic as advice-giving, not so sentimental as nursing, and not so casual as hanging out. It’s somewhere in between those three. Pastors, especially the ones who have been around a long time, work a kind of magic that you don’t pick up on until you’ve walked away. Suddenly you realize that you are comforted, or inspired, or perplexed, or even bothered, and you don’t know for sure whether or not they meant to do it, you only know that you are in a new and unexpected state. There is very little in this world as comforting as telling a pastor your sorrows only to come up laughing together, as though you had dived into a pool you expected to be icy only to find out it was as warm as a bath.
The Holy Spirit and a pastor’s words can meld like epoxy and become active. I’ve missed being able to receive this. It makes me want to find a little church with dusty pews and an iconic steeple and volunteer to help. When the last of my three friends offers to pray, I rest my head on my folded arms at the table and close my eyes. I don’t catch exactly what he’s saying, but I feel the afternoon breeze blowing over my head and shoulders like kind hands, and when he is done, I am somewhere different than where we began.