As I write this, I’m two days away from burying my Uncle Don. He’s the last of his generation. All four of his siblings, including my mother, and all their spouses, are already gone. Some are long gone. Don was hardly the one we thought would live the longest. He was a very successful banker when he had a massive stroke in the late 1980s. His left side was horribly crippled, and he never worked again. Subsequently, he also lost all but the basic material possessions he owned through bankruptcy. But I’ll be talking about my Uncle Don’s take on the whole thing at his funeral. He told me, “Son, it’s one of the best things that ever happened to me.”
Uncle Don would go on to explain that the stroke caused him to re-examine and re-order his life. He got active in faith, in church, in teaching Sunday School, and in serving as a deacon. And his family became his top earthly priority.
Compare this to a story I read in a leading online Christian/Pastor’s magazine. The author told about a medical emergency in his life, too. Only, it was his wife. She had a medical emergency that left her on the brink of death, with the outcome uncertain, on the eve of Easter Sunday. The writer explained that he was a pastor, and he wrote about how hard it was to leave his wife in the ICU, so he could go lead the Easter service. He left not knowing if he’d ever seen her alive again.
I know the purpose of the story was to illustrate the great sacrifices that ministers must make to follow their calls from God. Maybe it was also his cry for attention and praise. All I could do was wish this pastor could have had a chance to talk to my Uncle Don. With that in mind, I replied to the article in the comment section. I wrote something like:
- Your place was at your wife’s side. Not at the Easter service.
- Your decision was a clear message (to the wife who eventually survived) that she was second place to your job.
- Your decision was a clear message to the church that they could not be trusted to handle the emergency.
- Your decision also sent a message that you were above needing pastoral care yourself.
- If you had children (none were mentioned in the article), you have let them know what to expect if you must choose between them and your church duties.
- You have lied to yourself in order to feel indispensable. You aren’t. If YOU die this week, the church will go on.
Everyone lost out in the scenario described by the author. Everyone could have gained from it if he had just chosen differently. I guess I’m the only one who profited from the whole thing, because I got to blow off some steam in my response (and again in this blog). But the author never got to read it. My comments were never approved for printing.
Good-bye Uncle Don. I’ll see you when I get there. But may your message, faithful to a true understanding of priorities—even for ministers—go on.
Join the conversation! What do you think of this pastors priorities? Do you agree or disagree with the sentiment of this article? To whom should a pastor’s first priority be directed?