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.