Raw Preacher: Some Unedited Remarks
Preaching is a strangely private practice.
It’s only public for 20 minutes and then the public moment is gone. But the preacher is in a conversation with herself for weeks (and this in itself is a weekly occurrence). Beforehand: wrestling the text, finding the courage to ask the very hardest questions, finding more courage not to give easy answers. Sweating, fretting, and editing. Lots of editing. Afterwards: wondering if any part of all of that worked. Curious but unsure if you could have done better.
A healthy perspective of preaching helps a little, but not much. You believe and know that worship is so much more than your sermon, for example. You don’t expect anyone to remember all your sermons or even pay attention all the way through.
But knowing those things doesn’t change your passion, or your care, or your angst. You still have to sweat, fret, and edit. Wonder, evaluate, and find the faith to keep on going.
And you have to watch really crappy preachers get loads of attention. That’s the hardest part. I don’t need everyone to listen to me, but for goodness sake World, quit wasting your time and damaging your soul. Why do so many people keep their intellect out of the pew?
It makes me feel cocky to feel this way, and yet I feel it so terribly strong it burns me up. To put my heart and soul, my fiercest energy and most daring instincts into play while thousands line up to receive regurgitated clichés (not to mention bad theology).
Am I a narcissist to feel so slighted? Or does it come with the territory of doing this deeply and intensely private work that has a brief public face week after week?
Is it somehow selfish, after slaving so hard, to wish a little less popularity upon the heads of the fly-by-seat-of-their-pants types, the joke-focused types, and the copy-cat types?
One solution out of this anxiety would be to put less of myself into my work. It is so private after all. No one would even really know.
But I can’t. I don’t believe I ever will. The work pulls me in and demands my best. I guess that might be what they call a “Call,” because it is bigger than I am and I serve it happily (except for when I am fighting angry or dismally depressed, then I just serve it without being particularly happy and that’s okay too, I think).
Why does all of this eat at me so, and should I be looking for peace, or simply the courage to keep facing the angst for as long as such bravery is needed?