Pastoral ministry is complicated. It requires those who serve to know at least a little bit about a whole lot of different things. While clergy receive an extensive education, it doesn’t come close to preparing pastors for all they will encounter. Some of this has to do with gaps in training programs, but much of it is due to the uniqueness of the people and communities we serve and the ever-changing world in which we all find ourselves. The uncertainty of it all can be overwhelming. Even with those parts in which we feel confident, it can be a challenge to navigate all that is before us.
When I served as a pastor, I felt acutely the enormity of the work I was called to do. I felt, too, my own inadequacy in facing it! When I considered all that God wanted for me, my churches and our communities, what I tended to see were all the ways we needed to be better. I tried to figure out how I could learn all the things a better pastor would know, how to develop all the gifts I didn’t seem to have. I wanted my churches to try harder too, and I got frustrated when they didn’t. In my worst moments, all I saw was what was missing, in me and in those around me. Needless to say, those moments were pretty miserable. All that judgment didn’t really do much for my ministry either!
Looking back now, I see so much more clearly all the good that was already there, not just in some idealized future. With compassion, I can see the pastor I might have been if I trusted more fully in the gifts and abilities I had rather than working so hard to be who I wasn’t. I can appreciate the work God was doing and recognize the possibilities present in the people and resources we had. I wish that we’d spent more time celebrating together.
Of course, I have no way of going back to change the past. But I can learn from it. Ironically, I was often frustrated with the fear and scarcity mindset of folks in my churches, but I can see now how stuck in it I was myself! We may have expressed it in different ways, but we were all caught up in how we might not have enough, or be enough. And that focus on the “more" that was needed in a given situation kept us from seeing, celebrating and nurturing what we did have.
I don’t have all the answers when it comes to trusting that God has given us enough to live into our call as people of faith, but I do think the best place to start is with ourselves. Can we make space to see, celebrate and nurture what God has entrusted to us? Can we trust that, by God’s grace, we are enough in this moment, just as we are? Can we see our growth and change as building and developing from the good that’s here rather than as a need to be something or someone other than we are?
These are challenging times, and that’s not likely to change, even if the challenges themselves do. But here we are! Created, uniquely gifted, and called by God! May you trust your own “enoughness” and remember that the leader God needs you to be is the one that only you can be!