“Pastors don’t live in the real world…”

I am a pastor.  A pastor sitting in a hospital waiting room with my laptop, writing two funerals that I will deliver this week.

A short time ago the nurse came out and told us that our friend is not doing well. Her heart stopped and they are doing all they can to help her.

This is the real world.

Still…some people insist that pastors don’t live in the real world. Hollywood makes such assertions. One evening I was surfing channels and saw one of the cops on NYPD Blue talking to a member of the clergy — a priest. Their dialogue caught my attention. The cop said that he had no faith because of all the pain he had seen. “Reverend,” he seemed to say, “You don’t know the things I see on the streets. You live a safe life cloistered here inside the walls of this church while I see children’s bodies — victims of drive-by shootings and other forms of violence you can’t imagine. That’s why I can’t believe.” Immediately I realized that the  scriptwriter was either anti-religious, incredibly naive, careless, or just plain stupid.  Yes, a police officer sees great pain and evil in his line of work. He arrives on the scene and sees the immediate effects of the violence, observes the dead body, and picks up the pieces.  But it is the pastor who is left to pick up the emotional pieces. It’s the pastor who engages those injured in the days, weeks, months, and even years that follow a great loss. Even in that episode, it was the priest who was handling the fallout of what had happened on the street. The priest was witnessing the long-term effects of the damage done to the cop.

I once considered having a vocation in police work, but decided not to when I imagined going to the door to tell a mother her child had been killed in an accident. But guess what? After the policeman does that amazingly difficult task, he leaves. And who do people call? The pastor.

Pastors live in the real world. And we don’t resent it. In a sense, I love living in this real world, dealing with the real issues of life, death, and eternity. What an honor it is to help people find God in the midst of great pain and loss.  We live in the real world while we point people to a World far more real than this one.

I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing.

4 thoughts on ““Pastors don’t live in the real world…”

  1. I always thought the phrase “….. don’t live in the real world…” was illogical. I mean everyone lives in the real world. Where else would they live?

    Yea I know someone means when they say that. They mean the group they are talking about doesn’t experience the real world the same way they do. But that pretty much applies to any group. In your very example the police men and women do experience getting to the scene first and seeing the effects, they also experience knowing they or a friend may be killed any day at work. Most other groups don’t, But on the other hand as you pointed out they don’t normally don’t have work with or console the grieving parent/spouse/child/friend or talk with the dying to console them.

    In fact at the detailed level we all experience life in a unique manner both the good and bad. Of course the “groups” we belong to tend to have similar experiences but our own experiences are unique to each of us. So we all can say “….. don’t experience the real world the way I do” to everyone else.

    So the phrase “….. don’t live in the real world…” doesn’t really say anything useful or informative.

  2. I think the phrase is a way to say, “You live in a make-believe world. I live in the real world.” In that sense, it’s a very derogatory thing to say.

    What brought it to mind was watching some people in that context reacting to others as though they didn’t know what they were talking about. One woman was expressing faith in God. The cynic was responding to those expressions like the cop on the TV show. I know the cynic was thinking, “Lady — you don’t know what you’re talking about. Wake up from your religious dreamworld and get real.”

    Coming from a perspective that felt it knew the world and the truth better than the woman of faith, the cynic brought nothing of value to the table. No wonder the cynic philosophers were called “dogs” by their Greek contemporaries.

    If the cynic could have moved from his self-centered, self-absorbed position and seen the world from the viewpoint of the woman of faith, the shift would have been healthy. It may have resulted in good communication and even personal movement from the lifelessness of cynicism toward freedom to hope.

    But the cynic remained cynical, because in his mind, “that woman of faith doesn’t live in the real world. I do.” I know this because I struggle against powerfully cynical perspectives in my own life.

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