Friday, June 2, 2017

I Was Lonely

by David Mercer
In my journals which I've written all my adult life, one of the things I said repeatedly since the beginning is how lonely I was.

If I was once your minister, please don’t feel guilty. You didn’t know and you didn’t cause this. I’m telling it now because I hurt people when I left the ministry and I feel that I owe them some explanation.  Also, perhaps it will help people understand the systemic problems of church that cause pastors to be lonely. Believe me, I’m not the only pastor who feels this way. 

First, we have to move frequently. We don’t have time to form bonds and if we do, we have to leave them behind when we go to the next assignment.

Second, small town pastors are always outsiders. We didn’t grow up with you. We don’t share your history. We’re not your family. If you are nice enough to invite us to your house during family gatherings at holidays, we’re uncomfortable. Additionally, we often don't have the time or resources to visit our own families.

Third, it costs too much to be friends with the pastor. If you had tried to get close to me you might have gotten hurt by church politics. Someday I’ll write at length about that but for now I’ll just say that most of the few friends I’ve made along the way… they don’t go to church anymore. 

I always said that loneliness is just part of the job that a minister endures.  But as I got older I became unhappier and lonelier, and I just couldn't endure it anymore. 

I had no one to talk to. Every week, sometimes twice a week, I slipped away to talk to a counselor, which helped a lot but not enough to make up for the isolation.  I couldn’t tell anyone of my personal problems. I couldn’t talk about my theological struggles. I couldn’t talk about my problems at work.

I just ran out of resources to cope. 

7 comments:

  1. My greatest fear. I found that "pastor or preacher" have been isolating. Yet, "chaplain" was inviting and rewarding. Knowing my need for friendship, I set up recurring lunch appointments with colleagues. I also call my best friend and mentor most every week. I also have a regular appointment with a Spiritual Director, where I can address my doubts and fears. You are correct. You are not alone in your journey... Blessings

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    1. Yep. Good job taking care of yourself. It's important.

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  2. You could have talked to me. You were not my pastor. ��
    But you are right. Pastors become "the office". Imagine what being president is like?

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    1. I remember that time I did talk to you and I really appreciated it.

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  3. There is no doubt that being a pastor is lonely. I have had a few friends along the way. Some of which I still keep up with. I have found that being a counselor can be equally lonely, then I have to ask is it me? So.etines yes, my armor is thick. I have been hurt too much. Sometimes when I let the armor down I am hurt, but most of the time I find a friend, if only for a little while but still a friend. A few have been lifelong.

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    1. You're not the first counselor to say, "Me too."

      Like you I ask myself what I'm doing that outs me on this place. Part of it is the job but some of it is me... which is good news because it means i can do something about it.

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