this week, i want to talk about the weight of a burden. we all have carried burdens in our lives, and if you've been in ministry [or been close to someone in ministry] you know that pastors carry heavy burdens.
i think the closest burden to that of a pastor is that of a parent. [note: i am not ranking one as higher than the other... i am just looking for an entry-point into what i want to share today.] follow my line of thinking: a parent is responsible before God for the investment they make in their children, and the care and nurture they provide. as a parent, you ask God for wisdom, and sometimes make mistakes, and your burden is doing everything you can so that you can see your children succeed at life. this is not a role you take lightly, and it's certainly not a role you can punch a clock for.
a pastor's burden is similar. the pastor will answer to God for his investment in you. consider the etmyology of the word (aka where it came from).
pastor: "shepherd; spiritual guide, shepherd of souls."it is the pastor's job to guide us in life, to guide our souls. i don't think it's a mistake that pastors are referred to as shepherds, and are made to be a parallel to the Great Shepherd, Christ. the men that i know who do this best carry a weight as they consider their role, their calling, their day-to-day "job." [just as those parents who parent best do it with a sense of purpose and eternal significance.]
i wanted to first give you that backdrop. here's what this often means for the pastor's wife... her husband carries a heavy load. there were many many nights that my husband came home from an elders meeting with shoulders sloped from the weight of his burden. and because he was convicted that it was his burden to carry (and not mine), he would shield me. he also did it to shield his people... when it wasn't appropriate to share their sin with me, or to disclose details... so that trust was not broken, and character was not questioned.
realistically, this meant that on the evenings when there was the monthly meeting for the elders of the church, he might not get home until very late. the meeting might run until 10pm, and then he would stay after, debriefing within that very small community where he could openly discuss these heavy issues. there were nights he didn't come home until after midnight. it was really hard to go to bed before he got home, because i knew that the later it got, the more likely it was that the meeting had been a tough one.
on any average day of work, he might come home and be distracted, and rightfully so. there were many times when he would work hard to check his work at the door. but let's be honest... pastoral ministry isn't the kind of job you just leave at the office. as a pastor's wife, this meant that i gave up not only the quantity of time with my husband for his ministry, but often also the quality of the time we did have. because, while his body may have been in the room, his mind and his heart were with the struggles and burdens of the church.
[source]the effect on our time together was one thing... but then then inability to help was a whole other level. do you know what it's like to watch the person that you love (more than anyone else) carry a heavy heavy weight, and not be able to help them? not be able to talk it out, or listen sympathetically, or offer your perspective? i have to be honest here... this was particularly difficult for me. i am a very analytic person. i like to grapple with problems until i find the knot and slowly--but surely--work it out. i could do nothing to help, other than offer a safe space and hope that God would allow the time that the burden weighed heavily to be short.
i want you to understand what i'm about to say with both your mind and with your emotions--this creates a real challenge to intimacy in the marriage. if your spouse has something that regularly strains them, and they cannot share that with you, that is a difficult thing to manage. i think we did ok with it, but honestly, it took a lot of trust, both in God and in steve... trust in God that he would untangle the knots when i couldn't, and trust in steve that he would be willing to continually be intimate and open with me as much as he was able, even if it was hard for him, or required him to suffer because he couldn't share the burden when he wanted.