I love preaching. I hate preaching. The best description is Jeremiah's: it is like fire in the bones. It is holy work and dreadful work. It exhausts and it exhilarates, kindles and consumes.
On Mondays, I am charred remains. The hotter I burned on Sunday—the more I preached with fiery conviction and bright hope—the more burned to the ground I am on Monday. I'm restless, but I don't have initiative to do anything or, if I do, the energy to sustain me in it. I'm bone-weary, suffering what the desert fathers called acedia: an inner deadness from the hot sun's scorching.
Worst of all, Monday is lived with the knowledge that I am called to do it all over again next Sunday. Mondays are the days I would rather sell shoes.
But then Sunday comes, and the bones burn again. I am once more a firebrand freshly hot in the hand of God. If I don't preach, I am left with an ache like sorrow. I chafe worse from not preaching than from preaching.
"But if I say, 'I will not mention him or speak any more his name,' his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary holding it in; indeed, I cannot" (Jer. 20:9).
So I love it, and I hate it.
The surprise is that ten years of preaching has not diminished this. It has, instead, heightened and sharpened it. Every Sunday there's the passion if I preach, the aching if I don't. On Monday, either way, there's a daunting road both too long and too short that I must walk to next Sunday. Preaching is not a job. It is fire.
How shall we live with this rhythm of fire and ashes and fire again?
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