Thursday, February 26, 2009

Three Lonely Men

This week in my work and ministry, I talked to over 2 dozen different men. They ranged from a lawyer to a recovered drug dealer. In the midst of these contacts I found three lonely men; two pastors and the recovered drug dealer.

In days like these, I think all men are lonely in some way. The pressures of economic times, a culture of hyper negativity, the license to spew forth criticism without of thought of the implications has put a heavy load on our lives. Some of the men told me that their wives are lonely also. Some just don’t fit in to the community where they live. Some feel they are too busy to have relationships with one another. Time seems to be an ever decreasing commodity for all people. Connectivity is the highest ever (email, Facebook, etc.) but we have overloaded schedules, full bellies and yet we have lonely, empty hearts.

What I found this week was gut-wrenching loneliness; so lonely that one has contemplated suicide. Oh, he knows that much of the pain in his life was self-inflicted. Viet Nam got him into drugs; he didn’t kick them until he was 52; Jesus freed him from the bondage. He has no relationship with any of his children and has no one he can call a friend. He has a good job, lives a life of service to his fellowman but he is afraid to re-establish his relationship with his estranged children. It will not be easy to re-establish those relationships but it took over 30 minutes to convince him that his children may be just as lonely as he is. He can’t comprehend that any of them would want a relationship with their Dad.

We prayed about the hope of reconciliation and the hard work involved. He said they are going to bring up a lot of bad things. I said “yes, but I bet they won’t be any worse than the truth you have continually told yourself over the last twenty years.” He smiled and agreed that he won’t be surprised as he’s been very hard on himself. We are going to meet and pray for God’s guidance to develop a reconciliation plan for him and his children. This brother needs our prayers; please play for Ricky; he needs a friend.

The last two lonely men are pastors, actually pastors and their wives. I’ve always said that the two loneliest people in town are the pastor and his wife. One pastor said, “When I enter a room, it’s as if I have a ten foot bubble around me and no one dare enter.” One problem seems to be that we hold pastors to such high expectations (entertain us, look good and always do it well) that when we begin to see the “real” man behind the image, we become critical rather than understanding. Yes, a pastor has a high calling, but he is a sinner just like us.

We expect our pastor to be at our beckon call whenever we need or want him, but he should not be too intrusive to cramp our style. We get bucky when he seems to be spending too much time with Bubba and not enough time with us; oh, we’re good at keeping track. The pastor and his wife and children cannot have the same depth of relationship with everyone in the church; it is not physically possible. Jesus is our example. Jesus worked with twelve men; he was very close to three, Peter, James and John; and he called one His dear friend—John.

Get off your high horse of criticism and allow your pastor and his family to have a life. It floors me to see how picky people are about pastors, and I don’t mean spiritual things. It’s everything from “his damn dog” to the color his wife dyes her hair or the way his kids dress, Oh how petty we are.

I must admit some pastors like being on the pedestal. They relish the adulation and attention. If they have no one to hold them accountable, trouble can be on the horizon; we’ve seen this all too often. They know all too well that adulation and attention is fleeting and they live in fear of the day when the other shoe will drop.

Some people have shared with me that they feel pastors don’t live in the real world. Some feel the pastor doesn’t work as hard as the rest of us, they have “not so” free rent and a good benefit package. Some feel pastors do not speak about real issues. I ask, how can they know what the real issues are when we are critical and keep them at a distance from our real, everyday lives? Pastors and all of us as well, must minister to a hurting world. Go and minister! Sad to say, most of us, pastors and church members alike, are out of touch with the real world.

Pastors and their wives hide out. Past experience has taught them to be cautious, even distant. If they trust you with a deep hurt, keep your mouth shut. Many deep hurts are the result of broken trust. The hurt they experienced has become covered with large scabs; they don’t want to hurt again so they are distant. We don’t work for true healing and reconciliation. We criticize some more and the chasm between the pastor and his people becomes wider than ever. We stand and point fingers and look stupid.

On several occasions we have been out with various pastors and their wives. If we meet someone we know we introduce them without identifying them as pastor. Have you noticed that when women meet, the second question they usually ask is “Do you have children?” Men’s second question is “What do you do?” When the answer is “Pastor,” I see the walls go up.

I’m sure I’m sounding like the whining old coot I’ve been criticizing. I am! But our pastors and their wives and children are lonely. Let’s control our critical spirit; let’s minister to them and then we can minister to the world. When we minister to a hurting world, we won’t have time to be whining, picky, critical old codgers or codger-etts.

I don’t want to see any more “empty eyes”. Lonely men and women will always be with us but let’s not accept the status quo; let’s move up the bar. Love one another; forgive one another; let’s start over. Christ did that for us. Let us do it for one another.

Some ideas but the list could be endless—:
• Ask your pastor to help you with something such as moving to a new house, pouring concrete, clean out your woods
• If you are a friend, be a trustworthy friend
• Baby-sit the pastor’s children; give them a night out.
• Take the pastor & his wife out. Pay for the night out.
• Share a joke with him—laugh together.
• Plan an outing with his wife—coffee, lunch, shopping, whatever.

Please share your ideas or what you have done. May God bless your ministry.

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