“Papa is a hero!” Don’t you just love grandkids? You can almost do no wrong. My wife, Diane and I recently took 4 of our grandkids, ages 6-8 to a local fast-food establishment which had a small indoor play space. After ordering their food, they threw off their coats, shoes and beat a path to the play space to have some fun. I always watch my grandkids like a protective hawk for a couple of reason. #1 To keep them safe. #2 To make sure they don’t accidently or otherwise hurt an of the other kids playing, especially if they are smaller! Others were watching their kids or grandkids as well. However, I watched a couple of kids who may have been too small for this place, at least according to the posted rules. I watched as the Mother, and I assumed, Grandmother were too occupied with other things to appropriately watch the two small kids who were now playing and crawling around. After about 5 or 10 minutes I saw the boy, who looked to be about 2 yrs old and in diapers, climbing where he shouldn’t have been climbing. I looked for the mother but she was not in the room. I looked at the Grandmother and she was oblivious as to this little boy’s whereabouts.
As I was watching, he climbed atop the tube/exit for the “twisty slide.” I saw disaster coming and looked to see if the Grandmother was watching. She was clueless. I got nervous, antsy and almost said something to him to keep him from sliding off and getting hurt. Knowing how some people get when a non-family member corrects their kids, I opted to not say anything, but I continued to watch. Sure enough, the kid slid sideways off the tube and got wedged between the tube and the protective netting. I looked around and no one did anything! The poor little boy began to cry and I saw the Grandmother do nothing. He began to scream. Not being able to take it any longer, I launched into action. I tried to get him free by pulling on his little arms but didn’t want to hurt him as he was held very tightly between the screen and the tube which I’m sure made it hard for him to breathe. Trying to calm him down didn’t work and still no one came to help. After a few moments working by myself, the Grandmother finally came over and just stood there. I asked her to hold his arms up. I got on the ground, laid on my back, sliding under the tube and pushed him up from the bottom while the Grandmother pulled him free. She thanked me and went on.
That didn’t just happen, did it?
This is where it gets interesting and many of you will probably greatly identify with what happened next. Diane came over to me stating that I wouldn’t believe what just happened. Seeing what was taking place with the boy and myself, she went looking for the boy’s Mother and found her in the restroom. She politely informed her that the boy needed help being by himself, not knowing there was a Grandmother. A few moments after Diane and the Mother came back to the play space, she was approached by the Grandmother and told that she owed her daughter an apology. For what? she politely asked. For accusing my daughter of abandoning her kids, the Grandmother replied. My blood pressure began to rise as she was telling the story. What did you do, I asked? She calmly said, I apologized to her for not knowing her Mother was in there. All I could do was shake my head in disbelief! A number of things came to mind that I wanted to do or say. I think most of them could have caused me to be arrested. For a Law Enforcement Chaplain, that would not have been good.
Pastoral Alert System
The Mother never said a word to me for helping her kid get free and acted like it was no big deal. So, in perspective, here, I am helping someone else’s kid because they are preoccupied or not in the room. My wife is helping because apparently there was no one there who cared enough to step up and she is accused of making a false accusation! Everything would have been different had I called 911! But you know what? I’m one of the good guys. So are you. Deep down inside is a pastoral alert system. You have one too. It causes us to rush to people’s aid. As pastors, we’re first responders. That’s what we do. However, sometimes more than we care to number, we pay a price for trying to sincerely help someone. We are misunderstood as meddlers instead of Shepherds. I think, somewhere, I have a case of T-shirts from that one! I’m sure you have stories to tell as well easily topping that one.
That’s gonna leave a mark
Here’s the deal and the danger, Pastor. There is nothing like the feeling of knowing you were used by God to help someone in a serious situation. It fuels your fire; floats your boat; trips your trigger and gives you endurance for this good fight we’re engaged in. On the flip side, though, there is also nothing like the feeling of ungratefulness after you have helped someone even though you didn’t help for a reward. The problem is that it that it doesn’t take you to zero, emotionally. It takes you beyond zero to a deficit, emotionally! You say things like, “You have got to be kidding me!” And, “Can you believe this, right now?” If this happens enough times, you’ll find yourself shutting down some of your compassion being replaced with resentment. Stay there long enough and resentment turns to anger which finds it way out in your sermons. And while that may make you feel better, I guarantee that it won’t feel better to the flock who feel the tip of the spear, wondering what they did.
That’s a pastoral landmine! They didn’t teach you where that was buried in seminary or Bible school, did they? No, because many of those instructors are heavy on academic learning and short on pastoral experience. Certainly not all of them, but in my experience, a great number of them. That is why I decided to share what I’ve learned about these landmines before you get blown to bits!
How do you handle this particular situation? You’re not going to like it. Most times, you’ve got to take your lumps and move on. But, that’s not fair, you say! You’re right. It’s not fair. Working with people is like that. It’s very hard sometimes. Mostly rewarding, I believe. I find though that it’s never good while doing your job to take a step and all of a sudden you hear a “click.” That’s the sound of a detonator right before the mine blows up! This is where it is imperative to have a love for the sheep, especially when they bite you and bite you they will from time to time. It’s inevitable. Hurt sheep, hurt shepherds. I also believe it is mostly unintentional. I said, mostly!
Remind yourself that you’re one of the good guys not wanting to exact your pound of flesh. Jesus went through much, much worse. We have not yet resisted to blood, striving against sinfulness, ours or others. This is where we go to Him acknowledging He knows exactly what we’re going through. This is where we ask Him to strengthen us and keep us from bitterness. This is where we may shed a tear or two or three or more. He understands. He will help us. This is not a time to become one of those four to six-year pastors leaving a church due to the pain of emotional trauma. This is a time for Him to heal our wounds, pull us close. A time to remember our calling and desire to help His sheep. Hang in there. Don’t quit. It’s not always painful. There is much joy in pastoring!
There is much more to come so read away, my dear pastor. For more, tune in to the Emotional Survival for Pastors podcast at PastorJohn.net.