Monday, March 15, 2010


One of the aspects of my job that I have a love/hate relationship with is pastoral care. This is the responsibility of being the “pastor-on-call” and being available when people have surgeries, go to the hospital, have loved ones pass, or other significant life events that are taxing. There are some weeks that nothing significant happens when I am on call and other times where there is enough going on to keep me and my fellow pastors busy for a month.

The reason that I say I have a love/hate relationship with pastoral care is because life happens at its own pace, it never checks in to see whether or not it’s convenient for you or the people to whom you need to minister. It has a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it and slapping you across the fate. Crises come into our lives, not like a welcome and invited guest, but as a perpetrator to the privacy and sometimes peacefulness of our lives. For that reason, I dislike it.

The reason that I love it is because I love stories. I am always willing to sit and listen to a good story. If you tell me that you have a story to tell me, I will most likely give you the time to tell it. I love to hear stories about people, especially the people with whom I am talking. Story always lets me get a glimpse into a life that I never saw before. Story always tells me what has happened before the moment in which I am taking part. Story gives me context and helps me understand why someone is the way that they are. Story makes a personal connection and people move from being faces to being personalities.

One day, I could probably write a book from all of the stories that I have heard just in my time of doing pastoral care. I could probably fill volumes, if I could actually remember all of the stories. But I can’t, so there won’t be any book deal today.

One of the stories that I constantly ask to hear from people is how they met their spouse. This is always incredibly entertaining when their spouse happens to be there with them. The entertaining part isn’t so much the telling of the story, but rather what happens before words are even spoken. Body language often starts the story before a mouth has even uttered a word. Certain couples will look at each other and it brings them back to a day years earlier when they stood face to face in front of each other and a whole lot of people and uttered words of commitment to one another. In those brief seconds, the couple relives that day right before my eyes. Then they start to describe their meeting, their courtship, their wedding, and all the aspects of their life together that have brought them to that moment. It’s a pretty cool experience.

The other story that I love to hear people talk about is when they met Jesus. Yet again, the story begins well before a word is even uttered. They are taken back to a day when they met someone who changed their life. Some stories are simple and plain, while others are the stuff that movies and books are made from. Regardless of which kind they are, it’s always exciting for me to hear these stories because it reminds me of when I met Jesus. My story isn’t anything extraordinary, it’s simple, but I know how that meeting has changed my life.

Stories take time. Some stories are better than others. Some stories meander, twist, and turn before they finally reach any kind of point or purpose. But they are all real stories that have been lived by real people. When I take the time to ask these kinds of questions and patiently wait for the stories to be told, I get a glimpse of something that you don’t see every day. If pastoral care wasn’t one of the things that I had to do, love it or hate it, I wouldn’t have that opportunity.

What kinds of things are you missing because you haven’t taken the time or opportunity to be patient and listen?

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