Upright and on two feet

Published 9:58 am Friday, June 1, 2018

by Charles Qualls

“Gooood morning … how’re YOU!?” came the greeting from our sunny and wonderfully dispositioned administrative assistant.

“I’m upright and on two feet,” was my reply as I walked into the office. Soon as the words came out of my mouth, nicely and kindly spoken as they were, I knew what I had done.

You see, pastors aren’t allowed to use lay-people’s responses. I mean, technically we can. But in reality, we can’t. We’re supposed to be up and on … sunny and wonderfully dispositioned every day. That’s supposed to be poured into us somehow at the moment of our calling, or maybe as late as our ordination. The notion is that the real seasons of our soul are not to be on display.

Pardon me if I am pulling back the curtain, but we might as well learn something together. You see, this world can be an isolating place.

It’s a classic scenario, played out across time in churches everywhere. The trusted and beloved member brings you bad news. Someone in the church is upset about something, and you’re the one who’s going to have to be the fixer. They’ve had all day to call you, they’ve had all week to email you. But, now they see you and so they drop this bomb on you. Right as you’re about to step behind the microphone and dole out a dollop of spiritual wisdom and insight through a Bible study or a sermon for a nice crowd of people.

The whole place wants you to be “on.” You want to be on. They deserve your best. Except you were just gut-punched. So you do what you’ve learned to do. You push it down deep inside you and move on.

Here’s where I have to say the obvious. Pastors don’t have the market cornered on heavy burdens and isolation in their lives. Your child’s teacher just left a home where her marriage is in trouble. But, the children need her best and she’ll push it all inside and get her job done. Your CPA just did your taxes, but they also just did dozens of other people’s taxes. Meanwhile, their own health is in bad shape. “If I can just get past Tax Day, maybe I can go see what this cough is all about.”

Somewhere, there’s an elderly mother who has lost a brother and a sister in this last year. It’s just her now. Her husband had to be put in assisted living a few months ago.

One son just moved three states away and the other one is dealing with a life-threatening illness. There she sits, with very little she can help or fix about any of it. Her biggest struggle is that her whole life feels out of control, and it seems there’s really no one to talk with about it.

We’ve got to have someone we can sit down with in our heaviest moments. At the least, we need someone we can pick up the phone and talk with. In fairness to our spouse or child, our best friend or neighbor, they can’t be the constant dumping ground for our pain. Sometimes, a therapist or coach may need to help us manage. There’s no shame in those.

But, where is our God in all this isolation?

The Scriptures would remind us that God is as nearby as our very souls. The God who has set all of life in motion cares about our existence, too. 1 Peter 5: 6-7 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, so that in due time He may exalt you. Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

Quiet though God may seem, our Creator continues to work in our lives to bring about ultimate good.

In Matthew 11: 28-30, Jesus himself extends this invitation to the lonely and marginalized. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Perhaps the most grounded and real of them all comes from the apostle Paul in Romans 8: 26-27.  I have found these mysterious words to be of powerful promise. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

We are not alone in our pain. Reach out to someone who can help you carry the weight.

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.