Death and Life? It doesn’t surprise me to read statistics that one might view as contradicting statements. There are ample stats that testify to the “dangers” of being a pastor. On the other hand, a recent article reports that according to surveys, clergy report the highest level of satisfaction. Huh? Both statistics actually make complete sense to me…
According to that survey, the top five professions are clergy, physical therapists, firefighters, education administrators, and painters/sculptors:
Clergy ranked by far the most satisfied and the most generally happy of 198 occupations.
Eighty-seven percent of clergy said they were “very satisfied” with their work, compared with an average 47 percent for all workers. Sixty-seven percent reported being “very happy,” compared with an average 33 percent for all workers.
Jackson Carroll, Williams professor emeritus of religion and society at Duke Divinity School, found similarly high satisfaction when he studied Protestant and Catholic clergy, despite relatively modest salaries and long hours.
“They look at their occupation as a calling,” Carroll said. “A pastor does get called on to enter into some of the deepest moments of a person’s life, celebrating a birth and sitting with people at times of illness or death. There’s a lot of fulfillment.” [read the entire article]
So, while pastoral ministry is at times exhausting, draining, depressing, and overwhelming, it’s also meaningful and fulfilling. This past Sunday, our church family and pastors had the joyous privilege of encouraging, praying, and baptizing several people. Each of their stories blessed me in unique ways. Here, I’d like to share a portion of “Rachel’s” story:
My faith in God is nothing of my own doing. I am probably the chief saboteur of my own relationship with the Lord Christ. Rather than upholding pillars of a cathedral around my heart, which is St. Teresa of Avila’s beautiful analogy of our soulish vessel for the Holy Spirit, I’d say most days I struggle to keep a cardboard cover. I get blown around a lot, by the elements, by other people’s opinions of me and of the universe, by the un-ignorable state of injustice that is worse than a multi-drug resistant infection.
I came to know Christ through a few individuals who took notice of my awkward struggle to construct an identity all my own. They say true friends are the people to whom you can say the things you’d rather not have to say, and they are those who tell you things you’d rather not have to hear. I’ve been unexpectedly blessed by angels who came out of the woodwork to walk with me through some dark times, and those conversations tell the true story of my faith. But like John said, “if every one were written down, the whole world would not have the room for the books that would be written.”
My own stubbornness and arrogance are to blame for those dark nights of the soul. Loneliness is a bitch. By my sophomore year at SPU, I had pretty much encapsulated myself into a cocoon of pain—not of growth—more like an isolated tomb that still managed to smile away others’ concern. A dear professor of mine saw through the veneer, and pulled me aside more than once to minister to my hurting. He shared that on the day of his own conversion, a professor told him, “I am glad you are feeling this pain. You need to feel it some more.” So I did, and it was a refining fire kind of good in my life. I am a scientist, I am a philosopher, I am a comic, a cynic, I am a leader, a face on campus, and a very ugly sinner. These identities have made it very hard to accept the message of the cross, to truly believe that on top of all that schlock, I am also beloved, forgiven, and worth the sacrifice of death to be fully reconciled. I will profess as a living paradox who is tormented by the mystery of God’s salvation that only Jesus is freedom. [read her entire story]
So, while pastoral ministry can be @*#$@…what a blessing. May you also be engaged – not in a perfect job [since we know it doesn’t exist] but one that gives you pleasure, purpose and meaning – so that ultimately, you may honor God. Sola Dei Gloria.
Question: Are you currently engaged in something that gives you pleasure, purpose, and meaning? If not, what would that be?