That “project accomplished!” feeling . . . that is indeed a good feeling.
But that’s a bit different—no, considerably different—from regular pastor work. Pastoring boils down to one task: the care of souls. And souls are delicate, fussy things to work with. Souls, being what they are and belonging to the sinners that they do, are impossible for me to fix. Working with souls is like damming a river with sponges—you get one trouble spot in a person’s life functioning better and another entire section breaks away, flooding their lives with destruction and havoc once again.
Souls are a difficult medium to work with because they are invisible. You can’t touch a soul. Can’t point to it. And when it is sick the best thing you can do is apply the proper medicine and hope it gets better. But because you can’t see it, you never really know if it worked or not.
I understand why so many pastors seem to run away from the essence of pastoral work. Instead of caring for souls, some prefer to run the church/corporation as a sort of Chief Pastoral Officer. Instead of caring for souls, others prefer to count dollars and demographics and knocked-on doors. Instead of caring for souls, still others declare that faithfulness is a specific and certain set of traditions and rituals and actions that can only be done just so. Anything to create a tangible, concrete, finished product that they can point to and say, “There, I fixed it!”
But a soul . . . well, that’s something that we pastors can’t fix. It’s not within my power to do. But I do know the One who can. And the One who does. And the One who promised to always do His own unique, special work with souls that I myself can’t see or hear or touch. And much to my admitted dismay, He is stubbornly on His own timetable. His work is as graspable as the wind. His statistics are impossible to quantify. But His results are gloriously and wonderfully His own.
So I cling. And I trust. I blindly and feverishly stack sponges against the coming flood, and as I do so I grasp hold of every promise He has made and apply His medicines of Law and Gospel, of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, of preaching and prayer, and I care for the souls He has entrusted to me in the best way I know how, all the while knowing that it is a work for which the results will always remain ultimately invisible to me.
And you know what? I’m okay with that. When I need a pat on the back I’ll glue a dining room chair back together. But when I want to grow God’s Kingdom, I’ll simply do what He has called me to do and let Him determine the hows and the whens of creating His results. Because, you see, that way He gets the glory. Just as it should be. For He is the One Who does the work I can’t even see.