Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Things People Say ...!

I recently received a letter from a college student "PK" ("preacher's kid") whose dad is suffering some serious health problems. Her letter contained the following account that actually happened in their home: "The deacons came over one night to 'pray for and encourage' my dad and started firing questions about his situation instead, even asked if there was sin in his life...It came off as accusing, and my dad had just told them that he had basically lost his will to live, and they start firing questions like that to OVERWHELM A GUY MORE. An assistant pastor told them to stop, to just pray and leave ... but some damage was already done." No kidding. Apparently, there is no end to the really ridiculous things people can say to a pastor and/or his family. There! I've said it. (And all God's preachers said "Amen!") I've said it for all the other pastors who wish they could say it too if they didn't have to deal with all the feathers they would ruffle as a result. But really now, do people think the pastor's job description includes a target for rude, thoughtless remarks? I know this sounds like so many sour grapes, and yes, I really do believe in being long suffering, but then I remember the time one bona fide genius said to me "I don't think, if your wife was disciplined by the church, it would have any effect on your ministry." The truest part of his statement was "I don't think." Of course the crude and outlandish remarks are not always confined to pastors. Other church members get in on the insults as well. When one of our members gave birth to a disabled son, born without a hand, another "believer" observed, "God is punishing you for some sin in your life." Sounds like some of the deacons from the pastor's home, doesn't it? The pastor's daughter had it right - damage is done. The wounds are real, and sometimes they are deep. The first time I became a target for the thoughtless remark, I felt crushed and recovery took a long time. By now, the words still hurt, but I have managed to get over most of them. Some of the people who said the worst have become my best friends and most fervent supporters. Forgiveness has to be part of the regular diet for all the preacher's family. Without it, we would not survive. We would be consumed by self-pity and discouragement. We have to get over being hurt and remember that, at some point, we also may make a careless remark. So forgiveness works both ways. Just consider this a plea to "put brain in gear before setting mouth in motion." Warren Wiersbe once observed to some seminary students (I was one) that a good pastor must have "the heart of an elephant and the hide of a rhino serous." We all said "Amen" to that too.

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