His old late ‘90s pickup rolled up in front of their house and seemed to settle into place with familiar creaks in the suspension and pops of gravel still stuck between the treads from the dirt road that brought him home.
After he turned off the ignition, he sat for a moment, enjoying the quiet. A couple of bicycles littered the front yard, expressly left where they had been instructed not to be left just the day before yesterday.
The kitchen light burned brightly, and then the silhouette of his amazing wife flashed past. “Flashed past” is no exaggeration as she seemed continually to move 90 miles an hour in that house.
She was Super Mom to two grade-school boys, part-time (more like full- time) receptionist at one of those downtown boutiques, an experienced chauffeur to the block and chaperone to everything happening with those under 15 in that small town.
Add to that list the multi-page resume of experience in volunteer positions all over their church, ranging from mentoring to childcare to janitorial and anything in between. She was amazing.
He felt himself breathe out the words, “I wonder how long it’s been since I told her that.”
Hearing his own voice, he realized his internal conversation was making its way into the real world, and it jarred him into reality. Time to start his second workday.
He gathered his bag and jacket from the bench seat of the truck and left the worries of the day job behind, as much as he could, knowing it would start all over again tomorrow at 7 a.m.
Swinging the front door wide open (one of his favorite parts of the day), two boys paused a brutal smackdown via video game long enough to greet dad at the door, the younger with a hug and the older a fist bump. They stood there long enough to answer a question or two about their day, but Dad knew what they wanted to hear. “OK, good to see you, boys. You can go back to your game.” No further urging was required as they resumed their game without missing a beat. Their eyes were on the screen, but their voices were directed at him as they said as if in rehearsed unison, “Love you, Dad!”
As he stepped through the dark dining room and settled against the doorway of the bright kitchen, he saw her, in all her frenetic energy.
Wearing an apron and armed with a spatula, he could see she already had taken care of dinner. He must be later than usual.
Her head was cocked to the left, pressing a phone to her shoulder as she bustled around. There was a 70-80% chance it was her mom or sister from back home, which she missed so much. She mouthed the words “I love you,” then glanced at the clock before mouthing, “About 30 minutes?”
He kissed her on the forehead and then slipped off to get a head start on his other job. Maybe these 30 minutes would give him enough of a head start that he could go to bed at the same time as his wife.
He walked down the hallway to the spare bedroom they call an office and closed the door behind him. It was a third bedroom which was cleverly disguised as a bi-vocational pastor’s office:
- A haven for free books from past conferences.
- A desk stacked with denominational fliers and church bills.
- A few knick-knacks and thank you gifts from church members over the years (including that odd painting of Jesus whose eyes followed you wherever you sat that his father- in-law “found for him” at a garage sale).
It wasn’t much of an office, but he wouldn’t have to worry about that for too long because in about 18 months, when his oldest became a teen, he knew this office would become a bedroom once again. His 12-year-old son, currently rooming with a 9-year-old brother, never failed to point out this fact at family meetings.
Turning on the desk lamp, he pushed away a stack of papers while glancing at the bulletin board. There was a schedule pinned up for the current series at the church, reminding him he was already behind on his preparation for this weekend’s message continuing through the book of Ephesians.
He knew he needed to pour into some study. He should read the passage in multiple versions, study some commentaries, try to figure out some original language stuff and, oh yeah, maybe pray about it.
That thought threw a quick shiver down his spine.
It’s not that he didn’t want to pray; he loved prayer. But it was a reminder to him that his own personal devotions had suffered under schedule that could only be described as undoable: working 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. five days a week, coaching every afternoon, caring for a young and active family and then trying to pastor a small rural church that had enough meetings to steer a church five times its size!
He hadn’t even studied the passage, and he knew he still had to come up with a fantastic outline that was simple enough for the lost to hear the gospel, yet deep enough to give something to Sister Sally who’d been grading sermons for more than 50 years. He needed to produce argumentation, thoughtful exegesis, powerful (yet never-before-heard) illustrations, notes for the bulletins, PowerPoint slides for the screens and direction for the song leader who wanted all this yesterday.
He likes preaching, but he doesn’t love it. What he does love kept creeping in under the door to this makeshift office:
- The sound of his kids laughing.
- The smell of the dinner being made by the woman he cherished.
- The thought of togetherness just outside the door.
But there was even more he loved.
He was a bi-vocational pastor because he loved people, especially those in his little church.
He loved the community and wanted to give his life for that out of the way place. He loved mentoring, pastoring and holding that little piece of ground for the kingdom of God.
But it didn’t matter how much he loved it all; something was going to have to give. The pace, the energy and the work just were not sustainable. Something was going to have to give before he did.
He would die for his family and that little church … but he’d rather live for them.
He did not know what it was but he knew he needed something that would help him love and lead his congregation while opening that door to be with his family.
This post is adapted from the book, Doing More Together, available for free on this site under “Helpful Books.”
Published October 19, 2022