I recently decided to take a break from FB because I discovered I was slowly slipping into pastoral mode every time I read of a friend's need or heard a cry for help. I realized that though I had retired from active full-time pastoral ministry over eighteen months ago, I actually was "back in the saddle".
I have been trying to figure out why this has happened, since I left the pastoral ministry I loved willingly--mostly because I was tired. In reading the book BEING MORTAL by Atul Gawande, a NY Times bestseller, I was reminded that what keeps us functional and productive is the desire to be/feel "significant". Having recently "celebrated" my sixty-seventh birthday, I have been rehashing these last months and asking if I am still feeling significant.
Such a question wreaks at some levels of self-absorption and pride; at another level for me, however, I think it links me to the core value I have that my significance is found in my relationship to Jesus Christ and my pursuit of His purpose for my life. Since I was twelve years old--and a rebel at that--I have never doubted that God called my to pastoral ministry, birthing within my heart, a love for people and a sensitivity to their needs. Though my circumstances have changed, my heart and passion has not.
I am resolved that God's call to pastoral ministry has only changed in scope and setting for me. God has opened numerous doors for me--teaching occasionally at a Chinese church, leading adult SS electives at our church, mentoring young pastors, coaching our growth group shepherds, "pastoring" our homeless through God's Storehouse (church program providing food for 150 families weekly), directing our pastors in Haiti through TLC, and through my weekly sessions with counseling clients--that my opportunities to shepherd are ongoing.
The daily challenge for me is to know when to say "no", and to realize that I can't fix anyone--that's God's job. Its's my welcomed privilege to point people to Christ, and to share how He uniquely is poised to meet their needs.
Once a pastor, always a pastor. That's how I affirm my significance in Christ.