Playing Hurt


A stream of consciousness about being both a pastor and still human:

Most of us have seen athletes get hurt while engaged in their chosen sport. There’s almost always a cheer when an athlete gets up and walks off the field under his own power. Some injuries are minor and the player is able to get back in the same game. Some are a bit more severe and require time away from the game to heal. Others are career enders. Athletes dread the career enders, but even the lesser injuries which knock them out of play for a few games or worse, the remainder of the season, can be devastating. Most athletes are paid based on performance. No play, no pay. It is, therefore, not unheard of for athletes to throw themselves back into the scrum before they ought to. Sometimes they’re injury is able to finish mending on the go, so to speak. Sometimes they end up hurting it again, and worse than before. The issue for the injured athlete, though, is one of dedication, performance, and responsibility.

Most play simply because they love to. They work hard because of the love of the game. They are dedicated. It’s also true that staying in top shape and at the peak of one’s performance takes constant practice and challenge. A player who is away from the game too long can lose their edge. Athletes also have responsibilities. They have families to feed and clothe and mortgages to pay. All these things cause athletes to play hurt.

Pastors also play hurt, and for many of the same reasons. The difference is that athletes don’t usually sustain injuries from their own teammates while Pastoral injury comes primarily through the people we try to serve.

I’m playing hurt. Just when my cuts start to heal, along comes someone who rips the scab off, reopening the wound to bleed afresh. One of the dangers is that of growing callous. The way to remain soft is for the pastor to make sure that his (or her) relationship with God has priority and is on solid footing. First needs to be a love for and of God. The pastor needs to make sure passion for God does not fade or die. Without this, the pastor will grow callous and hard.

Remaining soft hurts though. And frankly, without daily, sometimes hourly, refreshing by the Holy Spirit, it’s impossible to do. Quite frankly, I haven’t done a good job of it this past year. I found myself over the summer growing hard and cold. Having diagnosed that problem I’ve been seeking God to soften my heart again, but it hurts. The blows keep coming, and from surprising quarters. The other day I was sacked by one of my own … again. I didn’t even see him coming. I twisted my ankle.

One last thing: Pastor’s aren’t allowed to make mistakes or reveal the pain they’re in. Our flocks get angry if we fumble the ball and offended if we limp on the field. Yea, that makes me mad. But I need to shift my focus and return to the coach for some guidance. He’s the only reason I play the game anyway. You see, he’s my dad (he chose and adopted me) and he also owns the team.

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