The word pastor comes from our job as shepherds. Of course, Jesus is the real shepherd, but we pastors try our best to represent him well as we seek to care for his flock. Jesus taught us that he’s the kind of shepherd who cares if a single sheep goes astray and wanders into danger, away from the flock (Luke 15:3-7). But it turns out that being that kind of shepherd hurts a lot.
Right now in our church, we have people hurting, someone dying, people grieving (including me and my family for the loss of my grandma), people struggling to make it financially, people in difficult relationships, people with ongoing health problems and pain… Lots of stuff. And I’m finding it harder to handle than it ws five years ago. The thing is that these aren’t just “people I know.” They’re friends and part of my church family. When your family is suffering, you hurt too.
Now the trick to dealing with all of this is to realize that I am not really the shepherd. I can reach out, but I can’t heal people’s pain. Only the real shepherd, Jesus himself, can do that. I try to offer my hurting friends and family to Jesus for his care. But he hasn’t made me of stone so it hurts along the way.
Even Jesus himself cried, so I know that I’m not doing it wrong. People teach “detachment” and “strong boundaries,” but if they keep us from loving and connecting with people, they’re not from God. Still, even Jesus had to face situations in which people he loved wouldn’t receive him (e.g., Mark 10:17-22)
I’m hurting right now, but only because I’ve allowed myself to care about people. I do not believe that a life free of pain because it’s free of caring is worthy of a Christian – particularly a pastor. Pain comes with the job and so does joy, in its season.