If you are a pastor, you might really appreciate my guest blogger David Crabtree’s recent gift to our pastoral tribe.
Sunday is, without question, the greatest day of the week for the preacher, at least, this preacher. It is the weekly gathering – a great “coming to the house” – corporate worship – “ecclesia” (called out and together). I love Sunday. I live Sunday. At 9:00 and 10:45 the joy, the art, the quest, the war of preaching is mine again, and for a few moments I move in the pure air of calling. The message delivered is a release – a relief – joy. Changed lives create an ever-new wonder, and even if the changes are not immediately evident, faith carries the hour, and it is well with my soul. I love to preach – it’s blue skies and sunshine for me.
By Sunday afternoon familiar clouds take shape. The first is fatigue, reminding me that I am not so young anymore. Weariness is followed by a cumulous gathering of self doubt – thickening – darkening, until the small irritants of the day begin to take on weight and the rain begins to fall. The man who, only that morning, walked so confidently to the pulpit, so sure, so free, falls into second guessing. Slights are magnified, fears are nourished, evidence of good is washed away as a regretted phrase, a fumbled point, a distraction or two – or five – or ten are suddenly remembered and rehearsed. On Sunday afternoon, about three o’clock, I often feel feel more like Elijah on the bad side of Mt. Carmel than the guy who called down fire and rain.
I fight it – I invoke the “whatsoevers” of Philippians 4:8. I remind myself that it’s not my performance that makes the difference. I do a half-dozen re-boots in my mind and push back hard… but I’m tired and drained… and I called that woman by the wrong name again… and the sound wasn’t quite right… and the guy half-way back kept me in a hostile stare… and in a quiet moment a baby went off… and… and… 3:00 on Sunday afternoon is a vulnerable place and time. It must be a busy time in hell with so many preachers to discourage, so much seed to snatch away before it takes root.
The biographies of the great preachers console me with the knowledge that my peculiar battle is not so peculiar (Spurgeon and Luther come immediately to mind). Monday’s play list is often the blues for preachers. I’ve also been at this long enough to know that it comes to pass – not to stay. After the Monday mess is cleared away and all the meetings have been met, Tuesday finds me at early morning prayer, and there is a stirring… a text… a sunrise over a fresh biblical landscape and a gentle wind whispers, “Sunday’s coming”… my soul smiles and my heart skips a beat.
I’m reminded that you can’t have glorious mountains without a few deep valleys – the most glorious sunshine will turn your life into a desert without a little rain.