Thursday, March 1st. The 9th day of Lent.

A day after I wrote that thing about compassion fatigue, a young minister friend contacted me. He is not long out of seminary and serving for the first time as the pastor of a church. Something about his email sounded urgent. He needed to talk.

We got together and spent an hour or so talking about what’s going on in his life. He is filled with stress over a number of issues. It’s a sobering thing to be the pastor of a spiritual community. One day you realize that your life – just the way you and your family live – has an impact on the church that you serve. You begin to feel like your family needs to be a model of spiritual and emotional health.

Heck, I’ll just say it. You ARE a model of spiritual and emotional health for your community. Whether or not that should be true isn’t important. It is true. And that’s a burden to carry.

Anyway, we were chatting and he said, “Oh, I just remembered. I’m not supposed to burden you with stuff like this. I read your post. I know you left the ministry and don’t really want to be a pastor for anyone anymore.”

And that’s when I realized that I still care about stuff. About this guy’s life, for example. I love him. He’s like a younger brother to me. And I remember so well all that he is feeling and going through. I remember the heavy emotional burden of caring for a congregation. I told him that he has a special dispensation. He can call me anytime day or night. And I wasn’t just saying it because I felt like he needed it either. I really do feel that way about him.

I think he believes me too. I think he knows that he really can call me anytime and I’ll always be there for him. The joy for me was in discovering that I want to be there for him and that it makes me happy to be helpful to him in this season of his life.

So I guess I still care about stuff and people. I mean I knew I did but…well, I guess I kind of wondered if I did anymore. And I do. So that would be a good thing.

Gordon Atkinson

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