I’m sitting in my office right now preparing the lecture for a class I’m teaching this Friday, “Introduction to Pastoral Ministry”. As I’m reading His Word and listening to worship I find my self swept away to a moment engrained in my heart and soul that I had for a time forgotten. I find my mind no longer present in Manassas, VA but whisked away to a small country church in Salem, NJ. As I enter the rear doors of the church I can see the small coat rack and late 70’s / early 80’s wood paneling that covers the rear lobby area. To my right are the wooden doors to the sanctuary filled with pews and decorative arches that point to the ceiling as if pointing to the heavens. Each hanging light has several crosses embracing the covering, seemingly declaring to all who enter that Christ is in fact the light of the world, not just this little church, This small building only holds about 100 people but it seemed much larger 25 years ago.
To my left there is the men’s bathroom and straight ahead is a large staircase that leads to the basement of the church where one can find classrooms, kitchen, and fellowship hall. I remember the fellowship socials that occurred there. I remember the women cooking their special dishes in the kitchen and I remember the cake. I didn’t like the cake back then, I preferred the icing. This preference has since reversed. I remember the long table that was set up against the wall that contained all of the amazing dishes of food. I remember the laughter and the conversations. It seems everyone wanted to pinch cheeks back then. The smell was wonderful. Nobody dared brought store prepared food; it was all home cooked and delightful.
The church’s frequent contribution was found in small styrofoam bowls of those chalky mint squares. I loved them.
All of these memories bring joy to my heart, but none of them compare to where I first saw the Beautiful Burden. At the bottom of the steps to the immediate left existed an office. Not just any office, my dad’s office. I remember hearing the soft worship music playing. It was an 8-Track of instrumental hymns. But there was something different about that office, something beautiful, something breathtaking that was unexplainable then but very explainable now. At the desk was a man of God bearing the Beautiful Burden. He was hunched over his desk with the Bible opened and his eyes focused on seeing and hearing what God so desperately desires to show such a man.
Other days I would glance around the corner and this man of God, my father, would not be at the desk at all. He would be kneeling in prayer. I would interrupt freely not fully understanding that I was interrupting a powerfully essential conversation between this man of God and HIS father. I know now, and if God would one day grace me with a son I would imagine there are far worse things then allowing my son to see me conversing with MY father.
It is 25 years later but here, now, in my office with my worship music and my bible open before me… it feels exactly the same. The same presence that was in my father’s office those days resides in my office now and I can’t help but be humbled and moved emotionally. That God would take those moments and brand them on my conscious…not only that moment but the Spirit of God in that moment.
What I saw then that empowered my father to pour over the Word and pour his heart out to The Father is the same thing that motivates Pastor’s all across this world. A burden to preach the gospel and see lives transformed. A burden to see people set free from emotional and spiritual bondage. A burden to see families restored and marriages healed. A burden to see the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear, but more importantly for the world to see the Jesus loves them immeasurably more than they could ever comprehend.
It’s a burden indeed, but it is so beautiful… so beautiful…. and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.