(I don't usuallly reprint anything I have written here--but some preachers might identify with retirement in my blog piece dated
March 9, 2009)
Ball players get frustrated when the coach consigns them to the bench. Who wants to sit on the bench when you could be out there on the court helping your team? Watching is not the same as playing. Now shift gears. Think Church instead of basketball court. Preachers don’t sit on benches. They are usually standing up and usually talking. Since the end of December I have been sitting on a bench every Sunday. Preachers know better than anybody that sitting there and listening is not the same as standing and telling.
Bench sitting does not come natural for me. My wife keeps whispering at Church and at concerts: “Sit still…quit fidgeting.” I am trying hard to adjust but it ain’t easy. But I must confess on Saturday nights when the burden of Sunday is not on my shoulders, it feels wonderful not to have to go off in some quiet place and wonder if what you have written down will make any sense when everybody else is watching TV. Sometimes I used to feel like I didn’t have any word from the Lord and yet I would have to get up there on Sunday morning and say something. What I learned though is that it doesn’t always depend on me. The treasure really does come in clay pots from the Dollar Store! (That’s the preacher.) And on those Sundays when I didn’t have much to say often people would come up and tell me how much what I said helped. I wanted to say: “Huh?” But I smile and thank them. Later I have remembered that it isn’t about me after all. God (and I hope this is not sounding too pious) sometimes has taken our feeblest efforts and has spoken tenderly to somebody out there.
But I don’t have to struggle with the Sunday sermon- burdens much now. I am learning how to not to squirm so much. I am moved some Sundays when “I am not in charge” to really hear the words of the hymns and wipe away a tear during the prayer time. I have even been amazed at how moved I have been by some sermon—and my Pastor is very good. But I have been moved more by some little child or someone sitting there alone that buried his wife last week. Like the athletes I would much rather be in the game but I learning, slowly the grace that comes from sitting on a hard squeaky bench.