LutheranChik's "L" Word Diary: Compassion Fatigue
Before I get lost in all the post-primary hand-wringing I just wanted to bring to y'all's attention this really thought-provoking post from LutheranChick about compassion fatigue, or that wall some people in the pastorate hit when, to use a business term, the ROI isn't forthcoming.
What would be an acceptable Return on Investment? Well, something indicating that an impact has been made; change or improvement, however miniscule.
After years of being senior pastor of a small community church, which came after being senior pastor at a medium Baptist congregation, my dad told me and my sister this past weekend that he's calling it quits.
"I don't want to stop being a pastor, but I don't want to be pastor of that church anymore,' he said, sounding more frustrated and angry than I've ever heard him sound. 'I've taken them as far as they can go and I'm tired. No matter how many sermons, bible studies, counseling sessions, nothing changes - they don't change. All that time I could have spent with my wife, with you daughters that I spent with them and it hurts."
My sister and I said, "It's about time. They were killing you."
So, in a way, this post is for my dad who's 64 years old and deserves a frakking rest.
I have a friend who, through her church work, got involved with a similarly dysfunctional household. Soon she was being called in the middle of the night with requests like, "So-and-So is in jail. Can you go and bail her out?" She'd schedule doctors' appointments for the pregnant unwed daughter only to have the daughter refuse to comply with the healthcare provider. She'd arrange for the family matriarch to get hooked up with this or that social service, only to have the woman fail to show up for appointments or turn in paperwork. After many months of this, my friend was becoming physically ill, anxious and filled with guilt over somehow "not doing enough" for these people. "Whenever I say I'm done with them, I think, 'What would Jesus do?'" she said, tears in her eyes.
Maybe I'm just channeling the values of my hardworking blue-collar parents, but I can't help but think that at some point Jesus would tell immature, deadbeat parents to look for work, and pursue social services for which they're qualified, with the same energy that they look for excuses; and to make their children, rather than their own comfort and whim, the family priority.
In this Lenten season, this post also makes me think about Christ's short ministry and just how much it must have taken to be on that path of His, knowing where it would end and dragging those disciples behind Him as they consistently misunderstood His mission and vision. I wonder if he ever asked for a new group of guys who were a little bit more swift on the uptake.
And I think about the disciples, ordinary men struggling with everything they're seeing and hearing, following but getting some things wrong along the way. I wonder if they ever sat around and thought, 'WTH??'
The board that I sit on in my church governs our social service programs and we were in the middle of putting together some materials for external funding. Part of our standard language describes our mission as transforming lives which is a pretty feel-good claim to make. But the man who directs one of our programs said in a meeting once, 'We don't transform lives. We feed people. We give them clothes. We meet a material need. Are their lives transformed when they come to us, when we help them? I have no idea.'
His words were like a really cold bucket of water being thrown over my head. Is it even possible for us to transform lives?
Anyway, I hear you LutheranChik. Hang in there.