It's hard to quantify the job that I do as a pastor.
I know that most of the time, I am judged by whether or not my congregation shows a positive trend in worship attendance and membership. I know that more often than not my "worth" is gauged by whether or not people join the congregation or the church budget is met. These tangible things are usually the yardsticks.
But there is so much more. There are moments that are not quantifiable. There is simply no way to measure them.
Today, I visited one of the elderly gentlemen of our congregation. In recent months, he had been attending our "Senior Service" being brought by a good friend. Last month, he missed. This month, he missed again. His friend said, "He cannot walk."
Cue my immediate response that it was time for a personal visit--including home communion.
I've known this gentleman for the entire time I have served this congregation, and he has been through a lot. He is now in his 90's and has lost much of his vision; and hearing. He does not have the strength to walk much more than 20-30 feet without breathing heavily. He told me today that he feels like something is wrong with his mind. Yeah, things aren't that great at all.
In the last three years, this man has been hospitalized numerous times. He had his gallbladder rupture and had a massive infection. His heart valve had to be repaired. He still has a hernia that needs repair. There are other issues.
I am not trying to paint a picture of despair. I am being real. Perhaps too real. Oftentimes we don't like to hear about people going through such suffering because there is literally nothing we can do to fix it.
"People tell me I need to get out of the house," I was told today. "But how? I can't drive. I can't walk. How can I get out?"
I think, what is really needed in this situation is companionship; visitation; interaction with others. But there are not many who will take the time to sit down with a 90 year old who has a much different view of reality.
I get that chance from time to time. And it is a privilege.
Here is where things get a little complicated because words tend to do the experience a great injustice. For just a moment today, there was a transcendence about our visit that is hard to describe. For just a moment today, there was a sense of a different reality.
After I gave this gentleman Holy Communion, he thanked me profusely. He was genuinely touched by the visit. It meant the world to him. And in that moment, all the bullshit disappeared. I mean, in most of our relationships, I think we have guards up--barriers that prevent us from getting hurt. Those barriers also prevent us from really being with someone else. But every once in a while, those barriers disintegrate. You see someone for who they really are. You connect. In those moments, when you see someone like that, you genuinely love them. You aren't looking to get anything from them. They are not looking to get anything from you. You just stand in one another's presence, and you sense a fullness.
External circumstances don't change. No one miraculously becomes healed of disease or hurt, but there is a connection. A connection that means a lot.
Perhaps such things happen outside of religious settings, but in my limited experience, they happen at a much higher rate when I am engaging another in prayer; with Holy Communion; or when walking through a difficult time and that person knows that in a real way I am representing God.
It's just a moment, but an important moment none-the-less. Not only for that one who needs a connection to something greater than themselves, but also for me. For in that moment, I too know that I need such a connection.
I wish that for you, my readers.
I wish that for you.