Christmastime for a pastor moves along at a pretty good clip. The old year has to be wrapped up. Plans for new year are already underway. Our church is also in the process of preparing a budget to present and seeking new Elders to serve. There are the Christmas parties and Christmas week services. It’s all a bit of a rush!
This year, we added a couple of new wrinkles to the fabric. We called two new pastors to serve on staff in 2016. During the course of the year, this addition, along with the always hard work of the church secretary and administrative coordinator, really helped to spread out the workload. These were blessings and not the wrinkles.
The first wrinkle is a delightful one – our Student Pastor and his wife are expecting their first child on December 26! The second wrinkle is not so delightful – our Worship and Small Groups Pastor developed a staph infection. But, “Okay,” I gold myself, “we can manage this.”
I often encourage people to expect the unexpected. Most assuredly, that is the theme for this Christmas. A few days ago, our oldest member had a severe stroke and was placed in ICU. A number of other families in the church and community had health issues or surgeries. I managed to plan everything and still make room for seeing family, exchanging gifts, and having a bit of a breather before jumping back in in the new year. That was until I got the call on Thursday morning that my stepfather had died suddenly of a heart attack sometime in the night .
I felt at that moment as if I were being sloshed about, caught up in a great churning. I had managed, to that point, to keep all the pieces together and somewhat in order. It had been hectic, perhaps even a bit chaotic, but I was still on my feet. I was still, seemingly, in control. As my sister spoke to me, everything changed. I sat down heavily in my office chair and said aloud, “I don’t know what to do.”
My praying was a little more than, “Help.” The pieces I had so carefully gathered and glued together fell apart and drifted to the ground. I knew that God was in control, that He works all things out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, and that His grace is sufficient. I knew it, but I struggled to rest in those truths. I am, after all, one of you – a human who trips often over his own humanity.
It took time for the sloshing to settle a bit. A few phone calls. Some list-making. Words of comfort from friends. Short prayers. Aimless walking. Mindless tidying. The pieces drifted downward and settled in place. It was not where I would have placed them. Certainly, it was not how I had planned the Christmas holiday. But as helplessly I watched the house of cards yield to the gravity of the news, I found that God was holding onto me. God truly does have this.
I thank all those who are praying and those who have given words of comfort and offered of help. I pray for those experiencing losses in our church family and receive the comfort of knowing you are praying for the loss in my family. Over these next few hours and days, I will be father, husband, son, brother, son-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle, friend, and pastor, but ultimately I will be a man desperately clinging to my Heavenly Father, a Father who holds onto me even when I cannot hold on to the pieces of my little world.