Sunday, June 19, 2011

Being a Pastor and a Father

This morning, my Father's Day began the way it pretty much always does.  I woke at a tick before seven am, the last few tweaks to the sermon humming and nudging in my brain.   My wife woke too, and gathered herself up to go rouse the boys.

Father's Day without breakfast in bed, you see, would be a disappointment.  Not so much for me, but for the guys.  So for the better part of a half-hour, I lay in bed, awake, waiting as the breakfast gradually assembled itself.

Then, in came the boys with the coffee and the cinnamon rolls and the vegetarian pseudo-sausage.  Mmm, pseudo-sausage.   I read the card pulled together by the little guy.  The big guy asked if he could hang out and eat cinnamon rolls with of course I said yes.   My 13 year old wants to hang with his dad?   I'll take every moment of that I can get.

We hung and talked and ate for about 10 minutes, and then I scrambled to get ready and out the door and off to a 9:00 AM Contemplative Worship.

Father's Day is always a work day, if you're a pastor.

That, I think, is emblematic of one of the challenges facing any male with offspring who is called to serve a community of Jesus people.   The demands of community and call frequently stand in between you and your kids.   Almost all of the pastors I know are in a state of constant motion, leaping from a meeting to a visitation to a funeral to a counseling session.   We too often live the lives we tell our congregants not to live, out of balance and shimmering with the stress of being reactive to a thousand demands.

For kids of pastor-dads, this can often mean that dad is distant, disengaged, and distracted by the community that consumes them.   Given the male propensity to get completely focused on the task directly in front of them, the relationship between fathers and their Pii-Kay progeny can often be defined by distance, a distance magnified emotionally by the need for those younglings to perform and be Model Jesus Children in the display window of the pastor's smoke-and-mirrors-perfect family life.

It's an unworkable John Edwards-esque balance, being both "married to the church" and having kids with another woman.  But to be effectively a father and a Christian, it means having the courage to stand in the balance.  If you are going to serve the church, there are things that you just are gonna have to miss, just like I missed my sons' swim team time trials this Saturday because I was at a training retreat.   Or how I bowed out of an event to which I'd been invited by a church member, because I had a family gathering to which I had committed.  To be wise and in balance, things must give on both sides.  The most important thing that has to give is your pride, as you delude yourself into believing that 1) you can do it all and 2) you need to do it all.

Being a good father and a good pastor simultaneously means having the confidence to stand firm in both your calling to teach and proclaim and your calling to be present and aware of lives of your children.