One of the temptations I have recently discovered as a new pastor is blindly assuming that parishioners—church council members even more so—have an infinite availability in their personal lives to accomplish any and all church-related tasks immediately. I’m really not sure where or how I picked up this assumption. It’s not as if the tables were turned I would be able to hold up to such an unrealistic standard. Nevertheless, recently I was perturbed about a discrepancy between (someone else’s) results and (my own) expectations; and like God shoving me off of my self-assembled pedestal, it hit me (or perhaps I hit it): “What was I expecting? This person has a busy life: Monday through Saturday.” In that moment, shame washed over me like a shower I had desperately needed—washing away my self-righteousness, with grace seeping into my cleansed pores and filling me from bottom to top. The more I reflected on it, in the days that followed, I thought about how I had never asked that person what their Monday through Saturday life consisted of. I had not taken the time to learn about who they are below the surface. I had just assumed (and we all know what assuming does) that everyone else worked on church-related stuff all weeklong like me—the foolish pastor.
I hope (for the sake of being in good company) that I’m not the only pastor who has ever fallen entrapped in such a nonsensical thinking: a vocational amnesia (if you will). Therefore, instead of starting another church council meeting with me trying to give something to others or attempting to shape their thinking, this time I left the teaching to everyone else. I sat there, and I listened. As each person around the table shared, they told me about their Monday through Saturday lives. I heard people talk about work, ranging from farming hundreds of acres of corn and soy beans to teaching a classroom of rambunctious elementary students five days a week. I heard about families, and the daily demands and expectations they bring. I heard about volunteer involvement with community organizations. I heard about personal hobbies that bring a sense of accomplishment and renewal. As I sat there quietly listening, I was enlightened in a way that can only be attributed as a work of the Holy Spirit. I learned about each person in new ways: who they are, what they do, where they go, how they navigate their days and weeks, and why they do everything. I learned about the many different facets that drawn together form a life. I learned about the places, people, and work that is all informed by these devoted people’s faith. I learned about what all life happens before I see them enter into the sanctuary and after I see them leave worship on Sundays. And, I began to learn—at a very basic level—what Jesus meant when he instructed those around him: “listen and understand” and “all those who have ears to hear, listen.” From this enlightening exercise (or devotion), I pray that the Holy Spirit continues to work in opening my ears and closing my lips as I learn who the people are—Monday through Saturday lives included—that God has blessed me to work alongside in this church.