COVID 19 has left me feeling lonely as a pastor.
I’m lonely not being able to see our congregation. Not being able to see faces, pick up body language, listen to stories. Not being able to share the triumphs and tragedies, the ups and downs of life. In person.
I’m lonely not being able to enter someone’s world in those meaningful moments of exchange on campus.
I’m lonely without the collective energy of a people gathered for purpose.
I’m lonely preaching to the camera instead of actual people!
I CONSTANTLY wonder how people are doing. A thousand faces and names and stories float in and out of my mind. And I wonder how that person really is. I can’t stop wondering (and worrying) about how people are doing.
I’m on Zoom and Whattsapp and phone calls all day, it seems. I read pastoral reports and listen to the beautiful (and sometimes heartbreaking) stories that our staff and leaders share constantly.
And yet I still feel like a lonely pastor. I miss our people gathered. I think that’s it, really. In a nutshell.
I miss our people gathered.
And yet, in this season, so many gifts. So many lessons. And so many adjustments.
I’m learning to pray for things I used to try to control.
I can’t find people jobs. Or prevent them from getting sick. I can’t stop them getting anxious or going back to an addiction. I cant parent their kids or stop a loved one from passing away. I can’t even visit them in hospital without ten body searches and special permission!
But I think the thing that worries me the most is that I can’t develop someone’s friendship with God for them. I have to surrender that every day.
Everyone has to nurture their own friendship with God. I cant do it for anyone else. I want to. Desperately. Perhaps I thought I could. But I really can’t.
Each one of us have to honestly, authentically and intentionally develop our own life-giving friendship with God.
I can’t worship for them. I can’t read scripture for them. I can’t draw close to God for them. I can’t make them get online for services or life group or college.
This season has presented the stark reality of the limitation of activity. I cant do more for people.
And so, I pray. It’s the most important thing I can do. And in many ways it’s all I can do.
I am praying that each one of us would find our own life-giving friendship with God.
I’m praying that this season would make us all realise that our friendship with Jesus is what matters most. That it really is the source of our lives. Everything else, while important, is peripheral.
I’m praying that we would find friendship with Jesus in deeper and more meaningful ways.
I’m praying that we would draw close to Him. Through prayer, scripture and worship.
I’m praying that we would fall in love with Jesus all over again.
I’m praying that we would drop our pretenses. That we would bring our lives – our messy, beautiful lives – to Him. That we would talk to Him about everything. Invite Him into every space. Even the dark ones.
I’m praying that He would shape us. Form us. Make us more like Him.
I’m praying that each one of us would experience His presence. Personally and powerfully.
In all honesty, I’m praying that many of us would not forget God.
I think about that and worry about that so much. I feel so concerned that for some of us, church was a substitute for a friendship with God. And now, because there is no church, there is no meaningful friendship with Jesus.
Church is not friendship with Jesus. The church is who we are because of our friendship with Jesus.
I’m praying that we emerge out of this strange season with a deeper faither and a greater assurance of God’s faithfulness. That the worries, pressures, anxiety, depression, and struggles don’t crowd out our ability to see the activity of God in our lives.
I’m praying that people don’t withdraw. Become lonely, isolated, self absorbed, selfish. Instead, I’m praying that we realise how important community is. Both online and physical community.
I’m praying that the Holy Spirit would pour Himself out in fresh and new ways. That He would give each of us fresh vision for the future! For our families, our country, our church, our lives!
And so, yes, I’m a lonely pastor.
But full of hope!
And I’m praying like crazy for the things I thought I had control over.
And I’m becoming OK with that. I guess it is as it should be.
Grace and peace, everyone.