On Easter of 2011 I had my first ever panic attack. I have written a lot on the church that I was serving at the time. This was a warning sign that I ignored. My chest got tight. I couldn’t breathe. I started to sweat profusely. I thought I might collapse. It was awesome (sarcasm font). It was Easter at Oakland Presbyterian Church, and I was keenly aware that it might be the last time that this most important of holy days was celebrated in this congregation. The pressure felt immense. As it turns out, I was almost right. It was the second to last Easter at the church.
This week, for the first time in five years, I am doing nothing for Holy Week. I mean… I’m doing stuff. I’m currently doing a load of laundry. I’ll be selling books. I’ll probably play trains with my son and sing songs with my daughter. But I am not serving a church. As deeply as I felt not serving during Advent, not serving during Lent has been truly devastating. I miss the church. I miss the season of loss and wandering through the wilderness. I love Maundy Thursday more than anything. The great commandment to serve stirs my soul. The agony of Good Friday. The waiting through Holy Saturday. The celebration of new life on Easter morning. Holy Week is… everything.
I am not serving a church. I shouldn’t be. I have some significant work to do on myself. I have hurt many people and I neglected care of myself. I am not fit to lead, not fit to serve. I am not pastoring…
… and yet I am more aware this year than ever that I am a pastor. I have a pastor’s heart. I have a pastor’s mind. Sure, I have a pastor’s training, but I was a pastor before that happened. I love people. They drain me because I am an introvert, but I love people! I love helping them. I love listening to them. I love serving them. I love walking alongside them through life’s many obstacles, even as I not-so-deftly-try to navigate my own. I am a pastor at heart. Maybe a pastor by nature.
I hope and pray one day to be restored to pastoral ministry. It will take some time. I have some healing to do. Some apologies to make. Some relationships to redefine. In the meantime, I will learn from my mistakes. I will let life be my teacher and I will be a pastor in non-church settings because I can’t frickin’ help myself. And… I will allow myself to be pastored. I will accept teaching and discipline. I will let others guide me and teach me. And I trust I will be better for it.
So, this year I will rest. I will observe in my own ways and celebrate with people for whom I have no responsibility. I will be undercover. Incognito. Shhhh… don’t tell anyone about my secret identity. Because it’s not just what i do (what I did once and hope to do again), it’s who I am.
I. Am. A. Pastor.