I finished reading Eugene Peterson's memoir 'The Pastor' on the day before Thanksgiving. What a good book. Not only was the content of it the usual incredible stuff from Peterson, but I liked the short chapters and overall readability as well. The last chapter (the 'Afterward') was only 3 pages long. It was a letter from Eugene to a young pastor.
On p. 316 he says, "As I reflect with you on my fifty years in this pastoral vocation, it strikes me right now as curious that I have almost no sense of achievement."
Hmm... imagine that. So it's not just me, then? It reminded me of what Mother Teresa reportedly said in her book too. So the fact that most days I think about giving up because there just seems to be no point doesn't really set me apart from anyone else??? I don't know. I just can't believe it's the same thing.
Peterson also mentioned in this last chapter of his liking Psalm 40:4 and how it had given him some "helpful clarity." It says, "Blessed is the man who makes Yahweh his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false gods." Then he likens the "proud" to those pastors who always look like they know what they're doing - who are competent and honored among their peers. He says it's tempting when we get into those situations to go after the false gods of thinking we can manage things and we can turn our vocation into a depersonalized job that we can be "good" at. He sees a link between the words "proud" and "astray." A good insight, I think.
But still... it doesn't make me feel any better. There is just so much heartache, and so many problems people carry with them... and then I carry them too (as much as I am able). It seems people are always telling me I need to "cheer up" (or whatever). But do they know? Don't they care? That's what I think. Yet I know what they mean, and I know I shouldn't take on other people's problems in such a way. But I do.
Of course, then there are the people who when they ask me what I do for a living, and I tell them I'm a pastor, they will often say things like, "Oh I bet that's fulfilling. I wish I did something like that." Not to belittle anyone, but they really just don't know. It is so unfulfilling. And maybe that's as it should be.
And, please, don't think I'm complaining about my job. I am not. I'm merely saying it doesn't carry with it a sense of achievement. At least not for me. Apparently not for Eugene either. So... there ya go.