Every once in a while I will have an interaction with someone that reminds me that I have a different definition of happiness than other people. Our cultural definition of happiness leads one to think that only overly energetic and/or sickeningly positive people are truly happy. I suppose that the Bible would use the term “joy” to describe my understanding of happy, but no one really understands what that word means nowadays.
The best way to describe my understanding of happiness is found in the title, at ease with the work of pastoring. This is a nod to one of my role models, Gene Logsdon, who wrote “The Contrary Farmer” and whose insights into life and culture continue to give me hope for the future.
Pastoring is inconvenient work. Life happens wether or not it fits my schedule and it is my joy and privilege to care for God’s people in those moments when life doesn’t seem to make sense. Being at ease with the work of pastoring, happiness as I understand it, is not grumbling or complaining when people come to call on me, but being flexible enough to meet their needs without sacrificing my own health, the health of my family or my relationships.
I am so militant about schedules because having a rigid schedule makes it possible to be more flexible, if that makes any kind of sense. Perhaps an example would be more helpful. If my wife knows that every Tuesday is “her” day and I diligently guard that time from any distraction, she is more likely to be favorably inclined whenever a crisis situation comes up and I need to leave to minister to someone. She knows that I have set aside time in the past to be with her and that I will continue to do so in the future, this is a “one time” situation.
Contrast this with a theoretical example where I never scheduled time with her and we only had date night sporadically every couple of months. Our schedules never meshed and the only time she could count on with any regularity was the 10 minutes before bed when I am weary and only half paying attention. Now lets say it is a Tuesday and we are planning on being together that day, but something comes up and I get a call. Can you see where bitterness might set in? How many ministry families have suffered this fate?
I advocate schedules because they allow me to regularly invest in my most prized relationships. But the truth of my profession is that people may need me at inopportune times. Having relational capital built up allows me to make a “withdrawal” without seriously endangering my relationship with that person.
I love my job. I love “my” people. Being able to minister to them and be fully present, knowing that I am not jeopardizing my health, family or relationships, is, to me, what being a happy pastor is all about.