I have shared several times before that I am an alphabet soup of “disorders”. I was clinically diagnosed with ADD- Attention-Deficit Disorder, when I was in my 20’s. Nobody knew what ADD was when I was growing up…or I would have been diagnosed earlier! But as I read about it, suddenly LARGE portions of my life and who I am made sense! Several years later, I was talking about ADD and I said to my wife, “Well, at least I don’t have the ‘H’!” (As in “Hyperactivity” sandwiched between “Deficit” and “Disorder”.) My wife looked at me and said, “Oh, Honey…you have the H!” And she is SO right!
So, there’s ADHD. And then, at about the age of 40, I began to read about OCD- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. (If you ever watched the TV show Monk…there you go!) As I read more about it, it became clear to me that I have THAT as well! Now, there are degrees of OCD. The character of Monk did things that I don’t do. BUT…I do a decent amount of the things he did…I have just learned how to either hide them or present them in more socially acceptable ways!
One of the many ways that my OCD manifests itself is in my hands. I am obsessive…compulsive about my hands. If I do basically ANYTHING outside, I wear gloves. I do not like to get my hand dirty! So in that respect, the word “messy” can be more than a little challenge for me.
When I was in seminary, I had a professor who often told us, “You will come back to visit and tell me ALL the things I didn’t teach you about the ministry.” She was so right. She also said, “Ministry is messy.” And boy was she right about that, too!
When you do math- at least the math that I have had some educational training in- there IS a right answer- a bottom line. When you get to the end of the problem, you can usually plug the answer back into the equation you started with and check to see if you’re right or not. 2 +2 = 4. Predictable. Clean. Logical.
But ministry isn’t like that. Ministry is a WHOLE lot less “science” and a WHOLE lot more “art”. Sure, there are principles, tenets, beliefs, foundations. But lying on top of those is a hodge-podge of…life. It’s NOT predictable. It’s NOT simple. And…often…it’s NOT easy.
Why is that the case? Why is math predictable and clean while ministry is unpredictable and messy? It’s because math is built around numbers while ministry is built around…us humans. And if there is one thing that is predictable about humans is that we are unpredictable. Someone can do the SAME thing 50 times. And then, on the 51st time they will do something completely out of the blue. It may be that the first 50 times they did it “wrong” and the 51st time is suddenly…right. Then again, it may be that the first 50 were perfect and 51 makes you wonder if they have ever done it before!
Therefore, as a pastor, you have to hold fast to bedrock. And you better know WHAT bedrock IS for you. But you also have to be willing to sway in the wind sometimes, knowing that, although you may get buffeted around a bit, you still have a firm grasp to that foundation.
For me, “bedrock” can be summed up with the words of United Methodist founder John Wesley. He said 1. Do no harm, 2. Do good and 3. Love God. If you can’t do ANYTHING else- make sure you don’t put anybody in a position to be hurt. But don’t stop there. START there…but don’t stop there. Next, do good. It’s not enough to do no harm. Do all the good you can in all the places you can. Oh, and by the way…LOVE GOD! The more you do #3, the more #1 and #2 will fall into place. Now, if you’ll excuse me- I have to go wash my hands!
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