A young pastor in one of my Soul Shepherding Groups asked all of us pastors seated around him, “Please pray for me. Everyday I can’t finish my work so I have to bring it home, but my four year old son wants to play with me. Most of the time I have to tell him no. I’m just too busy.”
We listened prayerfully to our brother’s story. “Thank you for your courage to be vulnerable with us,” I smiled. “In your heart you want to set more limits on your work and to save generous amounts of time and energy for your family — that’s why you’ve shared with us.”
Most pastors today don’t have a friend that they open up to. Other Christian leaders and caregivers also feel the pressure to be too busy and “fly solo.”
When I Was Too Busy to Play with My Children
As I listened to my friend I had a flashback to when our son David was three and Jennie was one. I was working from home writing my third book for publication. Little David walked up to the glass doors and looked at me, holding his blankie in one hand and a lego toy he was building in the other, “Daddy, can you come play with me?”
“I’m sorry I can’t play with you now — I have to work. But I’d like to play with you tonight.”
Big tear drops welled up in his eyes and he started to cry. Suddenly Kristi came, carrying little Jennie in one arm. She looked at me with exasperation and then picked up David in her free arm and whisked them both away into “The Happy Room” (that’s what David called our family room!).
A few months later Kristi gave me a card that said, “Bill, will you co-author the lives of our three children with me?”
“You’re pregnant!” I gave her a big hug. Shortly afterwards, I sensed God speak to my heart: “Bill, will you take your dream of being a best-selling author and follow in the footsteps of Abraham? Will you lay this down on the altar out of love for me, for Kristi, and for your children?”
“Yes, Lord,” I answered. I knew this was right and good. I knew this was from God.
Out of the Spotlight and Onto the Floor
Part of me died that day: God didn’t want what I thought was my best gift and that was depressing. But by dying to my ambition and ego, another part of me, the good part of me, became more alive. I grew in the freedom of quietly and joyfully loving God, my family, and the people around me. I was out of the spotlight and onto the floor with Kristi and our little children in “The Happy Room!”
I told my friend this story and then I said,
My children are adults now. They don’t come running to the door when I come home from work anymore. They don’t ask me to play legos, wrestle on the floor, or sit and cuddle. I can’t get those opportunities back, but thankfully I enjoyed enough of them and that has helped us to have good relationships now.
I know your Senior Pastor and his compassionate heart for you and your family — he’s not expecting you to take work home at night. God certainly isn’t asking that! I think we know who is driving you to overwork and sacrifice time and energy from your family.”
Who Prays for the Pastor who Prays for You?
“Do you have anyone who prays for you?” an elder pastor in the group asked him.
“I haven’t specifically asked for that.”
“I have a whole team of people that pray for me. Bill prays for me and I share my needs with him frequently. You need spiritual support and protection.”
“I pray for you too,” I said to my brother. “And I want to pray for you more so please keep checking in with me on how it’s going for you with setting boundaries on your work and being a father. Don’t just wait for our monthly pastors’ meeting, let’s get coffee soon!”
Then we all prayed for our brother.
You (especially if you’re a pastor!) need a pastor who is praying for you and your pastor needs your prayers!