I read a blog post from another pastor confessing some things – essentially confessing how not perfect he is. Seems like a good idea, so here’s my version.
I confess that I am not perfect. In fact, I’m far from it. I make mistakes. I make bad decisions. I can be irritable. I can be cranky. And, get this, even though I wear a collar pretty often, I sin. Even when wearing the collar. Yes, I am a sinner. I am no better than any of the rest of the people in the congregation. The collar doesn’t give me sin protection. It just points out my sin very clearly to me, if I’m paying attention.
I confess that I have my biases. Maybe this is surprising, maybe not, but I have biases when it comes to many things, just like everyone else. I have my beliefs about politics, faith, sports, and everyday life. Am I right all the time? Gosh no. In fact, I’m willing to say that there is a good chance that I’m wrong more than I am right. I come to the conclusions I do on what I think are good reasons. But I could very much be wrong.
I confess that I can get really frustrated. I can get frustrated with church, with people, with objects, with animals. The frustration is really more about me not getting my way if I am honest about it. I’m not in control and sometimes that gets to me.
I confess that I have doubts about God, Jesus, faith, etc. I don’t have all the answers and I don’t think having all the answers is healthy. Where is there room for growth if we have all the answers? Having doubt isn’t a bad thing. The Apostles had doubts and they spent three years walking with Jesus – literally. Who the heck are we to think we have to have all doubt removed?
I confess that there are parts of my calling that I don’t like. I’m willing to bet that everyone has things they don’t like to do, but do it anyway. Life isn’t all about doing only things you like to do.
I confess that I will never meet other people’s expectations. Being a pastor is a very public thing. And people look at the pastor through many different lenses. And everyone has expectations of what the pastor should do, say, and be. Guess what – I’m not going to meet those expectations because I am human, I am broken, and it is literally impossible to meet everyone’s expectation of what a pastor is to be. Why? Because more often than not, those expectations conflict with one another, are an idealized expectation of a pastor, and are unreasonable to the core.
These confessions may shatter your view of me or of pastors in general. I’m not going to apologize for that. My hope is that people will stop putting pastors on such a high pedestal. We are human beings. We have flaws and we fail. We struggle with many things. We are not the Herr Pastors of the past. That was an unreasonable projection that all to often ended in abuse of both pastor and congregation.
My calling is to walk with people in their journey of faith, to raise difficult questions, to share the truth especially when it is uncomfortable and inconvenient, to afflict the comfortable, to comfort the afflicted, to make disciples who go and do ministry, to offer the sacraments, to proclaim Good News. That’s what’s listed as the core of what a pastor does.
Here’s another confession. More often than not, the calling goes way beyond that. To be the administrator of a long-standing organization, to have financial acumen, to be the chief fundraiser, to be the chief spokesperson and marketing person, to have expertise in web and social media, to be a good communicator, writer, speaker, listener. To be good with children, infants, teenagers, middle-aged, seniors, and everyone in between. To visit many people who are alone. To be a calm presence in the midst of anxiety. To cast a vision and direction, and to keep moving the church forward even when it may not want to go forward. To know the perfect words to say for weddings, funerals, and special occasions. To craft perfect prayers on the spot. To be a great teacher. To meet with many different people to hear their problems and challenges, their sins and struggles. To care for strangers who knock on the door seeking help – food, shelter, jobs, housing, etc. To be a peacekeeper or peace maker in the midst of fights and abuse. To listen to criticism and anger and fear and not allow it to hold me or you hostage. To proclaim forgiveness for unspeakable sins. To be an example of discipleship.
Here’s the real confession – no one can ever do all that. I can’t anyway.
And so I ask for your forgiveness. Forgive me with I don’t meet your expectations. Forgive me when I forget your name. Forgive me when I don’t remember something that was said to me in passing or many weeks ago. Forgive me when I can’t make it to a meeting. Forgive me when my sermon falls flat. Forgive me when I’m just not feeling “it.” Forgive me when we try something different and it doesn’t go smoothly. Forgive me when I don’t get around to visiting everyone as often as you’d like. Forgive me when I don’t match up to the idealized image of pastor.
Forgive me please.