Posted by: Shawn Ragan | July 15, 2008

The Here and Now

I worked yesterday, but today was my first day out on the job site I will probably be on for the next couple months.  It was hard work, and my body is tired (working as a laborer for an electrician company strains different muscles than pastoral work 🙂 ), but I must say I enjoyed the work.  It was good to be out working with my hands.

Unfortunately, the job doesn’t pay enough to cover our bills.  So, I am either looking for another job or looking for a second job.  If I stayed with this, and became an apprentice, within a few years I would be back up to the salary range I just left…and as I said, I enjoyed the work.  The idea of working a second job, though, is not all that appealing.  I like the idea of being home in the evenings to be able to spend time with my family.  Since I left pastoral ministry, the realization of just how much I was not really fathering my kids or being a husband to my wife has set in.  I knew of the challenge of pastoral ministry – I knew of what tends to happen with Preacher’s Kids (PKs), and I thought I was home enough – I thought I was taking the precautions.

What I have realized, though, is that even though I was home at times throughout the week, my mind was still at the church.  I don’t know if I ever really left.  I have heard James Dobson talk about how pastoring is a 24 hour a day job.  From my perspective, it certainly was.  Somehow there has to be a way to balance home and pastoral ministry – I thought I was, but I have come to realize more and more how much I really wasn’t.  I would take off during the day (after all, many days I put in 10-12 hours, not counting all the time I was at home thinking about church problems and stuff) to go grocery shopping with my wife – something nice for her.  But even then, I was rushed and my mind was on the things I needed to do at the church.  I usually felt perpetually behind, and if that was not enough, we had some church leaders who tended to make me constantly feel like I was not working hard enough or often enough – if I didn’t answer my cell phone while having dinner with my family it was a problem (even though I promptly returned their call after dinner).

Lord, have mercy.  BTW, I hardly carry a cell phone any more – if you want to get a hold of me, call me at home and leave a message if I am not there 🙂

This leads me to something I have heard over and over and over again during my journey into Orthodoxy.  It is the idea of being in the present moment.  I think Fr. Stephen Freeman, in either a podcast or a blog entry, calls it the “Sacrament of the Present Moment.”

(Read the blog entry here.)

Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, in his book “Beginning to Pray” writes something that has struck both Tori and I on this issue.  I loaned out my copy of this book, otherwise I’d quote the section (maybe later), but what he brought out was this whole idea that we are living in right now and we need to be where we are at right now.  Someone else coined this phrase, and I think it is used in business and leadership, but it is applicable to all of life “Be here now.”

It is so easy to let your mind wander in a million different directions and onto a million different things, rather than be where we are at and who we are with.  Even during a conversation, it is easy to be thinking about what we want to say (at some point in time in the future, even if it is 30 seconds into the future) rather than being there listening to what the other person is saying and valuing them as fellow human beings.

Now is the time we are given.  Our Lord reminds us of the futility of living in the future.  But even in the present moment, we should be in that moment where we are at.  This is one of the reasons (I think) that I have heard people in Orthodoxy encourage people to pray with their eyes open.  It is too easy, with our eyes closed, to begin to imagine something (some think that is good during prayer to imagine they are there at the cross, or that they are somewhere or sometime (if in fact they are even thinking about God during prayer, my mind tends to wander to the most trivial things)).  Unfortunately, all of those things we imagine are NOT real.  It isn’t reality.  When I am at home praying with my wife and kids – I am there, in our prayer area, with them, praying to God.

As the pastoral responsibility I have been carrying these last eight years has been lifted from me – and as I have actually been home with my wife and kids – I have seen just how much that I was not there before (even when I was).  Even as a pastor, my first responsibility always should have been to the ones the Lord put closest in my life.

Lord have mercy and forgive me.

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Responses

  1. Welcome back to the “real world”. Your experience mirrors mine exactly when I left the ministry. I was indeed consumed by it to a point of delusion which I willingly participated in due to some deep dysfunction rather than “spirituality”. That was hard to face. My family was indeed better off and so was I in the long run because I eventually ordered my inner life and “spiritual committments” in Christ rather than my needs for affirmation, importance and “love” from people. I hope you can find work that pays your bills, manual labor is rewarding physically, psychologically and spiritually but it doesn’t pay much in the apprentice stages for sure.

  2. Hi, Shawn. It’s always so good to meet up with other travelers in The Way.

    My father is in a similar situation. At fifty, he is starting over with an steamfitting apprenticeship. He absolutely loves it, even though it doesn’t pay the bills (yet) and he has to take ibuprofen with his meals. He’s still working his former job part time, and even though he is very tired he feels really good about what he is doing because he knows the future is secure. And the raises come pretty quickly, especially if you take all the opportunities that come along.

    As for ministry…I do remember, with grief, how burdensome church business became even for me – and I was just a second-string church pianist who did some other stuff, too…it’s so wonderful that in Orthodoxy, the service or ministry or work of Christians in the Church is primarily and essentially to worship God in the Liturgy. In fact, I think that is what Liturgy means. In my new Orthodox Church (the third we’ve been in since our chatecumenate began) they offer nursery and ladies’ societies and have a large choir and VBS…and I just know that my child and I won’t be doing any of it. I think Orthodox churches are going to be giving that stuff up in the future, as they realize they don’t need it to gain converts. Fair fortune in the effort to be closer to your family.

    I haven’t read the rest of your blog yet, but I hope you know that the least person standing in the back of an Orthodox Church has a more honorable place than the man in the pulpit of the greatest mega-church ever. I salute you, hoping you feel as blessed and honored as you are.

    Christ is in our midst.

  3. this is a spiritual school all in itself. take one day at a time.
    You are well aware of what it takes. and I know God has given you what you need to pull this off.
    whatever happens, reject the evil thoughts which the tempter will be sure to throw at you. Just make the sign of the cross, call upon the precious name of our sweet Jesus and work hard. God will take care of the rest.


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