For every pastor who is never questioned and enjoys almost universal admiration, there are broken pastors who, in the course of their ministry, have found rejection, betrayal, and/or pain rendered at surprising levels considering we are ostensibly working with other Christians.
I, for one, have been blessed/lucky/privileged/honored to have had a satisfying ministry which has had moments of expanding the reign of God. (Honestly, that’s the point, right?) At least this is my prayer.
But even in my own “successful ministry” I have been called incompetent, disgusting, and untrustworthy. I have been threatened with false accusations. I’ve written recently about that time when sacks of dirty diapers were dumped in our driveway. That interlude of my calling also included broken pottery on our deck, a keyed minivan and warnings not to be in the church building alone. Not so good times.
If we try to be faithful in this ministry, we will make somebody angry.
What breaks us is betrayal:
- When gossip goes unchallenged.
- When people are afraid that – if they speak up in our defense – they too will become targets.
- When even the people who know us will not stand with us.
Jesus knew something about this. And even though his bones were unbroken during the crucifixion, his heart was surely broken. Some of us know what this feels like. The Church doesn’t break our bones. But the Church can break our hearts and our spirits.
How do we forgive like Jesus forgave? Therapy? Holy Spirit Miracle? (Yes and yes.)
I believe it’s possible to get through a long career of professional ministry without experiencing brokenness, but it’s unlikely. Most of us will endure some measure of utter sadness that people will get away with meanness based on their own hurts or fears or insecurities. It’s not surprising, but it takes a toll on us.
Can we trust that the resurrection will overcome our brokenness? I do.
PS – Thinking about HCE Sr who would have been 88 years old today. He once said to me, upon my sharing my call to professional ministry: “You don’t want to do that, Jan. People eat their pastors for Sunday dinner.”