The other day, I was having my “quiet time.”
Except it wasn’t working very well. Perhaps that was the first clue. “Working.” So steeped in the Protestant work ethic, I see too much of my life as work. Even prayer is work.
And that isn’t good.
So I sat there in silence. Lord, I just want to know that you’re there, and I want to know that we’re okay just sitting here together. I’m too tired to go through my prayer list, so I’ll just sit here with you by my side. If you’re okay with that.
And it was okay.
It put me in mind of this passage from The House at Pooh Corner:
Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
“Pooh!” he whispered.
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”
Jesus, I just want to be sure of you.
I wonder if you’ve ever wanted a Pooh-Piglet moment with your Saviour. Or if you experience them often. There are times when I run out of words, out of effort, out of . . . everything. And I just want to sit and know that my God accepts me and will sit with me for a while. I am often so grateful for the chance to be with my Creator without the need to speak that I want to give thanks. Thank you, Lord, for . . . everything.
So, a couple of thoughts. One for you personally. One for how you pastor.
1 – Your own prayer life.
When prayer becomes a burden, an effort akin to pushing Sisyphus’ stone up the hill, then give yourself permission to let the stone roll to the bottom of the hill. Sit next to it, and just be. It is certainly true that the spiritual disciplines are disciplines—they require effort—but there are times when we need a rest. In fact, I believe that we cannot move forward without rest. Including during our “quiet times” with its prayer lists and routines.
Here’s a suggestion. Stop adding people to your prayer list that is now so long it is unmanageable. Lay down this heavy burden and enjoy your Saviour. Your community is best led when you have enjoyed spending time with your God, and if that means just sitting and “being sure of him,” then do that. The prayer list can wait.
2 – Be present for your people.
If you’re a leader who’s often in a hurry, you can do a great deal of damage by failing to be present with people. I know a man on benefits who spent years trying to get the attention of a leader. He never managed it. The leader had no idea how to stop and give him his full attention. He was always in a hurry and apparently a man on benefits was not sufficiently important for him to slow down and spend a little time to show he cared.
What does that mean? It’s not about the length of time you spend. It’s about the way you show you care when you’re with someone.
Attentive body language.
A total lack of pretence.
Often, a person is simply saying this:
Leader, I just want to be sure of you.
When you show you care, you mediate the love of God to a person.
It’s a sacred moment.
The other day, I heard of a leader who told his leadership team that he would no longer be meeting
with anyone in the congregation because he felt he didn’t have a pastoral gift. Instead, he said his gift was preaching so that’s all he would do—turn up on Sunday and preach.
I advised my friend on the leadership team to fire him! Tongue in cheek, of course.
I’m sure you see the problem here. A leader without the ability to pastor is no leader at all. And that’s especially true in small churches. I’m not asking you to pastor without limits. We all have limits. I’m simply drawing your attention to the need to be present when you’re with the people you lead. Don’t look over their shoulders. Don’t glance at your phone. Don’t think of sport when they’re talking. Pay attention. Be present the way Jesus was always present with others.
I just want to be sure of you.
It’s such a simple sentiment. We have all felt it. We know the need for security that fills our hearts at times. So we reach for Pooh’s hand, our Saviour’s hand. Be not afraid to sit quietly with your Saviour, saying nothing, just enjoying companionship. And when you’re with people, give them your full attention. They may well be saying,
Leader, I just want to be sure of you.
That is a sacred responsibility.
Offer it to God and give thanks.
1. There are lots of Pooh parodies on the internet. This isn’t one of them. This is from p.119 of my green hardback edition, 1961 (first published 1928). Truth matters to me; this is real. It is not fake or parodied.