IVP - Online Pulpit - Unobstructed Hearts

January 1, 2007

Unobstructed Hearts

In the middle of making the most of my high school years (dating, playing basketball, pulling practical jokes on teachers, etc.), I was regularly asked by adults what I was going to be when I grew up. The interesting thing about this is that the inquisitors already had an idea of what I should become. “Don’t you want to be a preacher like your grandfather?” or “Wouldn’t you really enjoy being a teacher like your father?” they would probe, making more of a statement than asking a question. I would stammer some response, hoping they would be satisfied. Then a friend gave me a great idea. The next time I was asked about my future, I boldly stated that I was going to be a pseudo-intellectual. Well, the people in the little rural town where I grew up were quite impressed and would ask if I had to go to school a long time to become one. I assured them that I did. But alas, the joke was on me—I graduated from seminary and was ordained into the ministry.

Since then I have found there are far too many expectations placed on pastors. We busy ourselves living up to other people’s ideals. We often are unsure of how long we will be at a particular church, and therefore we are hesitant to build deep relationships with our parishioners. Pastors are expected to be the moral example for the congregation; consequently we dare not speak of our own sins and shortcomings. We often feel that we must have answers to all deep theological questions, so we are afraid to show our theological shortcomings.

Unfortunately for pastors, it takes a great deal of energy to maintain a false image and plaster the cracks in our façade. I have done this for far too long. I have lost countless hours of sleep, and my mind has been preoccupied with the finer points of damage control instead of simply saying, “Hey, I’m stumped! I don’t know what to say or do. So Lord, would you please take my heart and the meager gifts I have and use me as your servant.”

Chipping away the façade of our hearts may be the single most important thing we can do to improve our ministry. My two disabled children have taught this important truth to me. They have no pretense or finely crafted images to maintain. They have pure hearts that are built for relationships. Though it might not be easy to communicate with them verbally, the language of love they speak is profoundly deep. Weak in flesh, they are strong in heart. Unlike many pastors, their hearts have not been encumbered with the heavy armor of a “shining knight” syndrome. Their strength is in an unobstructed heart that is available for relating to and loving people.

These beautiful children, who when they were born caused me deep grief, now are a source of inspiration and strength. They are not impressed that their daddy is a pastor and speaker. They are unmoved by my education and degrees. All that they are looking for from me is an accessible heart. And you know, this is really what my congregation wants as well. Somehow I think this is just what Paul had in mind when he said, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Posted by Gerry Koning at January 1, 2007 10:29 AM Bookmark and Share

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