“Because I’m not the perfect pastor, that’s why!” Someone asked me why I named my blog “Not the Perfect Pastor,” and the foregoing statement was my reply. People read my blog title and see not the perfect pastor, but don’t always see the tag line (or should that be subtitle) “but that doesn’t keep me from trying.” The key for me is in the trying part.
I’m not the perfect pastor. But I long to be the perfect pastor. There are days I don’t want to be a pastor at all (they are few in number, but they happen). There are days that I would rather be anywhere but “at work.” There are days I get frustrated with the “work” of ministry. There are weeks I don’t want to write a sermon. There are days people get under my skin. There are days I let my frustration show in ways that are not necessarily pleasing to God or encouraging to others. But, even on those days, I keep trying. I get up and go to work because that’s what I’m called to do. I can’t do anything else…not because I can’t do anything else, but because there is this divine compulsion that won’t let me do anything else. I long, deep in my heart, to be the perfect pastor, to always say the right thing, to always do the right thing, to have the next sermon be better than the last sermon, to be the best example of grace, forgiveness and love.
There are examples of the perfect pastor I have in my mind. They are men and women who showed the love of Christ in real ways. I know enough to know they were probably not perfect, either, but I know they were always striving to do that which is right, that which reflected the best of Jesus even while dealing with the worst of humanity. That reality gives meaning to the admonition Paul gave to Timothy “hold on to the wholesome teaching you learned from me” (2 Timothy 1:13). That was Paul’s way of saying “follow my example.” I want to get to the point in my life where I CAN say “follow my example.” Others have gone before me and given me the example of how to be a great, if not perfect, pastor. I keep trying, even when I fail, because I don’t want their example to be in vain. Nah! I won’t mention names of these people. Some are still living, and I wouldn’t want to ruin my idea of their perfection. They’d call me and say something like, “If you only knew…”
I don’t know why I think I should be the perfect pastor. I’m not perfect at anything else, either. I’m not the perfect husband. Just ask Vanessa. No, on second thought, don’t ask her. But, the fact that I’m not the perfect husband doesn’t keep me from trying. I keep trying to do those things that would make me the perfect husband. I keep saying “I love you” every day. I will surprise her occasionally with flowers or a card (probably not as often as I should, but hey, I’m not perfect). I try to remember to clean up after myself. I try to let her know what’s happening in my work life so she doesn’t wonder. I try to be an encouragement to her when it appears she’s having a bad day. Do I always get it right? Heavens no! But, still I try.
I’m also not the perfect parent. As much as I long to be, I’m not. How many times have I sat around and wished I could do it over again. How I’ve counted the things I would do differently in my parenting. I never spent as much time with them as I should. I never had the right words at the right time…you know, like you see on TV and in the movies (think Bill Cosby here, or if you’re really old think Robert Young or Ozzie Nelson). I suppose if I had hired a group of writers who had a week to script my reality, things would have been different. I didn’t. They aren’t. So, I keep trying. I still have time to be the perfect parent. I still have time to get a few things right with my children. I still have time to tell them I love them. I still have time to offer them better advice. I still have time to model the type of behavior that will help them be better parents and disciples. The key will be to practice those things in my own life now. Will I always get it right? No, but I’ll keep trying because I want to be the perfect parent. I can still do it.
Apparently, I’m not even the perfect blogger, either. The perfect blogger would blog every day (you know who you are!), and would have the perfect words to say on almost every subject, combined with the right amount of humor, the appropriate amount of sarcasm, a touch of political satire, and yes, just the right length so as not to be a drain for people to read. But, I’m not perfect, and sometimes I will go ten or twelve days without blogging (not a very good way to build followers, is it?), and even then, I struggle with something to write. Seriously, it’s supposed to be an on-line journal, but I can’t post everything I like to journal about. That would really destroy your picture of me (at least I like to think it would–which demonstrates, yet again, that I’m not perfect). But, just because I’m not posting doesn’t mean I’m not wanting to, or even that I’m not writing, or thinking about writing. And so, I keep trying, sometimes not so perfectly, but trying anyway.
I keep trying. I keep trying because I do want to be better, and I believe I can be better. Why do I believe that? One word–grace. I’m nothing if not Wesleyan, and I believe that we “go on to perfection.” It would be really easy to try to explain what “perfection” is from a Wesleyan perspective, but this post would get long, and you’d get bored, and it would detract from the reality that I believe I can and will do better than I’ve done in the past because Jesus gives us grace to do so, if we will open ourselves to the Spirit’s power and submit ourselves to His guidance. Isn’t that what Paul meant in Romans 8:2 when he wrote, “And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” I think Paul reiterated it in verses 12-13, “Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.”
Key for me is opening myself to the Spirit’s power in my life. Putting myself in the place where the Spirit can do His work in me, for it is the Spirit’s work to “perfect” me, not mine. My work is to be in the place where He can work, and then let Him. I do that through prayer. I pray daily to live a life of character and integrity. Sometimes He answers that prayer, other days I don’t allow Him to answer it. I do that through a daily discipline of bible reading and meditation. I do that through opening myself to accountability from colleagues and brothers and sisters along the journey. I do that by intentionally practicing those spiritual disciplines that open myself to the work and guidance of the Holy Spirit in my life. No, I don’t always get it right, but I keep trying, and a lot of days I get it right, not because I’ve done it well, but because I was open to the Spirit working in me. I believe there is grace and growth even in the trying.
We Wesleyans call this whole process sanctification. We believe in it. If we believe in it, maybe we should practice it a bit more. So, please, don’t get hung up on the “Not the Perfect” part of my blog title. If anything, focus on the “keep trying” part. Better yet, keep trying with me.
Until next time, keep looking up…