His call prompted me to pull a book off my shelf, Spiritual Wholeness for Clergy by Donald R. Hands and Wayne L. Fehr. The forward was written by British novelist, Susan Howatch, author of a series of books with clergymen as the central characters. Glittering Images, Glamorous Powers, Ultimate Prizes, Absolute Truths, Scandalous Risks, and Mystical Paths are her stories about the church.
In the forward, Howatch writes that clergymen are people who can oftentimes live behind a professional facade which imposes considerable demands on their mental and emotional health. She understands that it is easy for pastors to become imprisoned by a false self - trapped, she says, behind a "glittering image." She felt compelled to write about people in the ministry as capable of sinning not because they want to be wicked but because they are "in some vital way cut off from God and alienated from their true selves" (Spiritual Wholeness for Clergy, p. xii).
Over the years, God has used her words as a sober warning to me. I wonder if my depressed pastor friend has experienced some of what she has written.
At the close of Howatch's forward to the book, I used her thoughts to compose a prayer:
Save me from living behind a professional facade!
I know that my career as a pastor has imposed considerable demands on my mental and emotional health. Help me to recognize those demands and to protect myself.
May I not be imprisoned by a false self - a "glittering image" of what a pastor is supposed to be. May I be free to be who You made me to be. I want to be real.
I do not want to be somehow cut off from You because of the ministry. And I do not want to be alienated from my true self because I am playing the role of a pastor.
When I see any hint of a facade in my life and ministry and when I see my true self in its weakness, may I not deny it with horror. But by Your grace, may I explore it with compassion.
Save me. Heal me. Help me. Liberate me, Lord.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
Question: How have you seen ministers of the gospel live behind a professional facade?