Friday, 26 December 2008

Boxing Day Thoughts on Pastoring: Blue Mondays, Mistakes and Soul Handling

A couple of things have stuck in my mind from the "Readings for Reflection" in my A Guide to Prayer for this week. 

Blue Mondays

First, from Hannah Whitall Smith's, The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life, this bit spoke to me:
Years ago I came across this sentence in an old book:
Never indulge, at the close of an action, in any self reflective acts of any kind, whether of self congratulation or of self despair. Forget the things that are behind, the moment they are past, leaving them with God.

When the temptation comes, as it mostly does to every worker after the performance of any service, to indulge in these reflections…I turn from them at once and positively refuse to think about my work at all, leaving it with the Lord to overrule my mistakes, and to bless it as he chooses. I believe there would be far fewer "blue Mondays" for ministers of the Gospel than there are now if they would adopt this plan; and I am sure all workers would find their work far less wearing. 
Smith has her detractors, but I think she's right on here and I think it applies not only to Mondays, but also to Christmas and Boxing Days after the Christmas Eve push. What's done is done, what's not done is not done, what didn't work didn't work, what did did, let it be. Trust the Lord to overrule and to bless with divine accuracy.

From My Boxing Days: The TV Version

One of the things I enjoyed about directing live television in my previous life is that once a show was over it was done. There wasn't time to agonize over it because we had to get ready for the next one. I didn't have my mistakes and imperfections recorded for endless playback, regrets and what ifs and I rarely had any feedback from the viewers.

In my work as a priest, Sundays are rather like those live shows except that I see the results (or lack of them) in my congregation playing and replaying week after week and year after year so it's harder to put them behind me.

Best and Strongest Hands

Then there's this from Friedrich von Bodelschwingh (who I can't remember hearing of before):
I beg you, do not look upon Dortmund
or Medicine Hat, or where ever else, methinks,
as a steppingstone, but rather say: Here I shall stay as long as it pleases God; if it be his will, until I die. 
It helps, of course, if you like being where you are.
Look upon every child, your confirmands, every member of the congregation as if you will have to give account for every soul on the day of the Lord Jesus. 
I find that a bit daunting. It's true, I bear some responsibility for the spiritual feeding and welfare of the people I serve, but I also believe that once one is old enough one is responsible for the feeding and welfare of one's own soul.

I like this bit
Every day commit all these human souls from the worst and weakest of hands, namely, your own, into the best and strongest of hands. Then you will be able to carry on your ministry not only without care but also with joy overflowing and joyful hope. 
His best and strongest hands are the hands that save. By his mercy, mine sometimes bring comfort, but can be clumsy and often fumble the ball. Alas.

But then, what Hannah said.