The Pastor's Front Row Seat
Part of being a pastor is just being present.

"Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them … Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep." Romans 12

There was a point in my life when I hated weddings. I'd do anything I could to get out of going. I'd leave early. But now, when I think about all the celebrating I missed …

I think the main problem was that I wasn't married myself—and I hated just about any and every reminder of that fact.

Ditto things like dealing with hard issues in people's lives, confrontation, or even other people's sickness. Nothing in my life had ever exposed me to—much less equipped me for—much of that at all. So, of course, it was good to go into a vocation like ministry where I would deal with all of those things on a regular basis.

While I always hated going to weddings, I've found doing weddings another thing entirely. As I drove home from a wedding the other day, I realized just how much I enjoy this role I get to play in people's lives.

In fact, I think I've always enjoyed doing weddings—well, except maybe that first one. The "pressure to enjoyment" ratio was way out of whack on that one. Good thing it only lasted about 10 minutes. On this last one, I think I finally crossed the 90 percent ratio in terms of pressure to enjoyment. Now it's almost pure pleasure. I know what I'm doing. I feel like I have something to offer. And most of all, I can relax and enjoy my front row seat.

As a pastor, I get to see things that most people don't. I regularly stand two feet from men and women as they pledge their lives and their love to one another, tears streaming down their faces. I stand there at one of the most significant moments of their lives, helping to create it. And I'm literally the only person in the room who can see the faces of the bride and the groom and all their family and friends at once. It's amazing. The supreme pressure I used to feel to mess things up (after all, who wants to be that pastor who calls the bride by the wrong name or accidently skips the vows) has now given way to just feeling honored at being invited so close to something so intimate.

That's how I've come to feel about dealing with some of the harder stuff, too. I still don't relish the hard issues—the confrontations or the hospital visits and the sickness. And I can't imagine anything I'm looking forward to less than the first Evergreen funeral.

But I know that if I fight involvement in those things internally, I will "mess it up." I'll be less present than I need to be. I'll look for easy ways out. I'll do my "job" and move on—and that, frankly, is a very poor way to approach something as sacred as the entre' into the hardest parts of people's lives.

August 12, 2009

Displaying 1–3 of 3 comments

will

August 13, 2009  8:02am

I was in that front row seat for my daughter's wedding,[oh yeah, my son in law, Eutychus, was there too,]what a joy! The most amazing thing to witness from the front row seat is a life, changing from the confusion and tragedy resulting from a self centered existence, to the love, joy, and peace, of a God centered one. I still can not imagine the Grace that seated one such as I in such preferred seating.

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Gareth Williams

August 12, 2009  6:48pm

I've performed my first two funerals this year and have found them to be a great privilege. Though the first one was stressful, hoping I wouldn't stuff up, it was amazing being able to assist the family in saying goodbye to a loved one. So, great article and spot on about what we do.

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bil_

August 12, 2009  4:47pm

Wow. This was a real blessing to me. Right time, right place. Praise God! Thanks for sharing what God has revealed.

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