I return from vacation trembling. First, because I fear I might have forgotten how to do it. Second, because more hangs on this ministry than on brain surgery.
Don’t you remember going back to school after a long summer of fun? And all of a sudden it hits you sometime in August: “I haven’t written anything all summer. I might not remember how to write. My hand may get all mixed up. I may not be able to spell. I might have forgotten all my multiplication tables. And on top of that, how will I ever remember everyone’s name?” So you get this twisty feeling in your tummy, and you want to run away.
Well, don’t laugh, but there’s a lot of that in my tummy this week. What does a pastor do anyway? Where shall I start on Monday, July 19? Let’s see there are at least three people in the hospital I should see; there’s a stack of mail; there is a staff meeting and an intern meeting; there’s a wedding on Saturday and a rehearsal Friday; there’s a newly engaged couple to see Monday; there’s the children’s worker situation to catch up on; there are some notices to send about Tom Steller’s ordination. O yes and I am teaching a three-week course in the Doctor of Ministry program and Bethel Seminary starting Monday every morning for 2 1/2 hours; I’ve got to get ready for that. And the sermons to get ready. It makes me nervous just to think about it.
But I don’t run away. I run to the basement and shut the door. And I read Psalm 46, “Be still and know that I am God.” Stillness. I can hear some footsteps upstairs and the dehumidifier humming in the next room. But this will have to do. Be still, soul! Stop rehearsing. Relax. Breath deep. There. Now, know this: God is God. God is God. Just be still and let that hit you. Let it grow. Let it fill up the room and the basement, the house, Elliot Park, Minnesota, the U.S.A., the earth, the solar system, the Milky Way, the universe and beyond. God is God! O to know in the bottom of my soul. O to carry this stillness with me through these hectic days. God is God! O to live these days so that someone will say at my funeral: he was a thoroughly God-besotted individual.
But the more of God you carry in your soul, the more you feel that brain surgery is child’s play compared to the pastoral ministry. They traffic in time, we traffic in eternity. If they are defeated, it is by death. If we are defeated, it is by hell. This work is not trivial. If my vacation, with its leisure, its free-run for the mind, its sea scapes and starry nights—if my vacation has done anything for me, it is to lay on me the weight of my calling. If I do it well I save myself and the saints (1 Timothy 4:16). If I fail…
“Be still and know that I am God… The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”
Trembling in the yoke,