Every once in awhile I give someone what I know may (or may not) be bad advice.
I wish I knew what the heck I was talking about most of the time.
There are certain things I've learned over the last decade (I'm gonna say my learning didn't really start until my later 20's... I just wasn't picking up the hard lessons before then), certain things I've learned to do the right way, mainly by doing it so very, very wrong, so many, many times.
I feel pretty comfortable steering others towards those lessons, even knowing that most of the time, my words won't mean much until they themselves have learned the hard way. Most of the time I count it good, not if I help someone avoid a mistake all together- that's nearly impossible- but if my advice sits there waiting for the 2nd or 3rd mistake and then clicks in... That's pretty much a best case scenario for most of us.
But there are things that occasionally come up and I have to admit- I'm still trying to figure this one out myself. I can give my working hypothesis, but...
In those cases, I usually try and hedge and tell people- this may be really, spectacularly bad advice. I may get a year or two or ten down the road and decide that what is about to come out of my mouth was total bs, and more than just wrong, maybe steering people down a bad road... so caveat emptor.
I gave one of those disclaimers last night.
I won't give all the details, but in talking to a friend of mine who's a pastor, the issue of feeling like you were always a pastor came up. Pastoring friends, pastoring family, pastoring passing stray cats and such...
He asked, "How do you turn it off?"
My possibly really, spectacularly bad advice?
I've been meditating this week a bit on similar issues- on what makes a man or woman who pastors a pastor, on why some get into trouble, on the job vs calling aspect of things.
Here's my working hypothesis... this week, at least.
Boundaries are necessary. You can't pastor everyone, nor should you try. But... there's a fundamental identity thing here. I'm fairly convinced that those who work with the mental picture of pastoring as job and career, and attempt to be a pastor during certain hours only, eventually find themselves leading a dual life. Those times of off become more and more important to them, and when the stress ramps up, those off times become more and more dangerous.
There are few vocations that involve having a certain character 24/7... but this pastoral life is one.
Now- I balance all of that with some other things- that yes, regularly, you turn off the role. The cell phone goes off, the computer gets shut, the day becomes family day- but if at those moments you become a different person, if during those times you feel free to let your hair down (as it were), to care less, to do certain things that you wouldn't do "on the clock," I think you are heading for trouble.
I know there's a balance here- role, calling, character. It can get way out of whack- Pastors who try to pstor 9-5, 5 days a week won't last long, and they shouldn't. It's just not that kind of gig, and if that's what you really need, you should do something else. But, by the same token, pastors who pastor 24/7 lose their families.
I don't know what the balance is- I can't pastor everyone, but I think I need always to be a pastor. Mental metaphors are important- how we conceive of ourselves, the mental pictures we use have cascading impacts all down the line. I often find myself letting myself off the hook (a terrible sentence- an even worse reality) by saying "I'm not his pastor" which being translated means "I don't have to allow myself to care." And that kind of scares me.
My advice last night was- don't turn off the pastor thing. Always be a pastor. You can choose to define those relationships in which you are pastoring people you feel someone else should be pastoring differently- you can find reasons to care and do pastoral things within more reasonable boundaries in simply being someone's neighbor or friend or relative. But don't try to turn off "pastor" because I've seen some bad things happen to those who were able to do so.
I don't know... I may have this completely wrong. What do you all think? (sorry for the ramble)