I woke up this morning in a cold sweat. The cause? Failure. Or
rather, the fear of failure, and feeling like a failure. After 22
years of being a pastor, I am still surprised by how sudden and
overwhelming that feeling of failure can come on to me and render me
weak and depressed. I am dealing with these feelings because I am
about to have a job evaluation after my first 90 days on the job.
And as I prepare for the evaluation I don’t feel like I’ve
accomplished much. I am envious of people who are in the construction business, or the
lawn care business, or cooks, or teachers, accountants, or
professional athletes, or any number of professions who can point to
what they did at the end of the day and determine whether or not they
were productive. How can a pastor tell if he or she has been
How about counting “nickels and noses?” If the attendance is growing
and the budget is growing is a pastor successful? It indicates some
kind of success I’m sure but I’ve “been there done that” and I don’t
want to live that way again. Nickels and noses as an indicator of
success can lead a pastor to use people and hold onto people and
control people in order to feel successful. At least, that’s what
happened to me and I don’t want to do that again.
The past three months I’ve tried to succeed at one
thing: love. Every morning I wake up and remind myself that the most
important thing I can do that day is to love. Now, it’s ironic to me
that, it’s because I’m focusing on loving people that I feel I’m
failing in a number of other categories. I am not keeping to my
schedule. I am not accomplishing projects on time. Sometimes
projects never get done. I’m not as creative as I used to be, or as
prepared as I used to me, or as confident as I used to be … Why?
Because loving people takes time and energy. It moves me off of
schedule and it “distracts” me from my work.
This morning I had a date with my youngest son. We went
to breakfast and we read and talked about Psalm 1. I met another
friend for coffee and we talked and I encouraged him about the state
of his spiritual life. Another friend of mine kept coming to mind
this morning so I called him and invited him to lunch. This
afternoon I will spend time with my wife discussing our ongoing
challenge of raising three teenage boys. This evening I will have
dinner with my family and lead our worship team in a rehearsal for
Sunday. In the gaps between those meetings I’ve answered emails,
made phone calls, read a little, thought a lot, wrote this blog. Was
I a success today? Did I love?
I’m hoping that if I spend my day loving God and people, and I
do the same tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after
that, that I will live a life that is pleasing to God and will have
participated in His love project in the world. The Scriptures say
that love is one of the only things that will last forever. I guess
that means that if I love I'm not a failure.