A few years ago, my friend Dave read a book about being a pastor. The essence of it, he shared, was a pastor’s job is two things: to listen and pray.
The title of pastor is interesting. Some people think you have to be hired to be one, others think you have to go to school to be one, while many think it’s a spiritual calling regardless of your vocation. If you’ve spent time with a collective of pastors, you would know each one is unique regardless of how he or she became one. One pastors differently than the next and like anything else, they each have the thing that makes them good at what they do and the thing that is hard for them to do.
Another word for pastor is shepherd, and shepherds are known to spend time tending, caring for and herding sheep. Some are better at tending especially when sheep are struggling; some are better at caring, feeding and nourishing while others are gifted at moving people from one place to another.
People tend to look for answers from their pastors, but pastors are really supposed to lead people to find their answers in God Himself. To do that well requires us to listen more than we speak.
Here’s the thing… pastors rarely have all the answers. A good one hopefully looks for answers from the Spirit and Truth and these two things are accessible to anyone.
I’m not just a pastor. I’m also a friend, a wife and mother. In each of these roles, I am faced with hard questions reminding me of the necessity of wisdom when I’m feeding people or caring for them during the most fragile moments in life.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5
Sometimes these conversations lead me to recognize life is precious and the creator of it is Holy and the fear of saying the wrong thing, the thing that could lead someone away from where God wants them is enough to keep my mouth shut and just listen.
“It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:26
The problem is, if you know me, you know I am also a highly opinionated person who loves to process life verbally so being quiet is not exactly the thing I am naturally good at.
In the last year, conversations I’ve had, the tears I’ve shared, the anxiety I have felt with someone about what’s next, have led me to understand there are more answers in listening than in speaking. It is better to listen and ask God to speak through me than to just say something that seems good simply to make a person feel better. Because when God speaks, it’s as though you can feel His breath on the back of your neck as the answers come out in the listening. Your heart begins to quicken and you can often see from the look in the other person’s eyes, Jesus is moving among us. That’s when you know who the real Shepherd in the room is. The One who is always there, always listening, always has the answers, even when He waits to give it until the appointed time.
The truth is none of us have a lot of answers for a lot of things. The older I’m getting the more okay I’m becoming with the phrase “I don’t know.” It’s not an evasion of truth, or a walk along the fence, it’s the truth there are simply some things we don’t know how to answer or how to walk out immediately. What I do know is, we are called to love people. We are called to hear people out because that’s what God does. We are also invited to trust God and wrestle with His words in humility, leaning not on our own understanding as He leads us into the next right step without fearing what is unknown in the steps following.
All this can be practiced in the process of listening and praying. And it takes eternity to get it right.