This morning, I turned on the computer to find out that Pope Benedict is resigning. Wow! He says that he no longer has the mental or physical strength to cope with his ministry. Pope Benedict is 85 years old. The median age of the 10 oldest popes on record is 85.6, so maybe it was a good move, physically and mentally. But it really made me think- If you've been called by God, can you resign from ministry?
Most of us lay people serve in ministries as a side interest, taking on new ministries and resigning from ministries as our busy lives and interests allow. But what about pastors?
There are some people who become pastors, maybe because they didn't know what to major in at college. But others have been called by God. Kumar says that he's always known he was going to be a pastor. He was dedicated by his parents to pastors ministry as a baby. Luckily, he also grew up with the talents and interest in pursuing a profession in leading others to Christ. He started his career fairly young, age 20. Does that mean he must be a pastor until age 67-70? Or can he resign now after 20 years of ministry and pursue a new career? Are you called by God to the same ministry forever?
What about the mental and physical demands of ministry? Pastors work a weird schedule. They work 24-7. If someone is in the hospital in the middle of the night. You're on. Holidays - Christmas and Easter, you're not only on, but you are usually working overtime (with no overtime pay). Even if you are off, and on vacation, you end up running into church members and once again, you're on. What does that do to your mental and physical strength? The Adventist church gives pastors sabbaticals to rest and refresh their bodies and minds. But why are there still so many pastors who leave ministry? And take it from me, an angry pastors' wife, there are many more pastors out there who WANT to leave ministry.
I think its because its a futile job. Just like my field of special education. We are working every day with people who can't, don't want to, and maybe never will reach their full potential. That's really frustrating. How do we cope? For teachers, we live for summer vacation and graduation, knowing we've done our best with these students and hope that someone else will find a new and different way to reach them later in life. Some pastors do the same. They move on after 3-5 years, so someone new can try to inspire this uninspired lot. Or they move on to bigger and better things (Conference positions, healthcare administration, etc..) where the big bucks are.
I think pastors, teachers, nurses, anyone in a "people" industry should leave their positions once they no longer care. Actually, this applies to all jobs. If you work at Starbucks and you don't care about my drink, please resign. If you're a mechanic and you don't care about my car, resign! If you work in Congress and don't care about our country, please leave.
It's a struggle to keep caring about others, even when they don't want your care and concern.
God does this every day. He won't resign because of a lack of physical and emotional strength to deal with us pesky humans. Maybe he'll give me the power to continue to deal with the people around me, one day at a time.