I used to imagine that ministers spent all their time thinking spiritual thoughts and having meaningful interpersonal interactions about them, an imagination that caused me to experience great frustration, in my early 20’s, that the pastor of the church I attended wasn’t available to hang out with me and listen to my vocational discernment whenever I wanted. Dude had a family. Oh, and a job. Ministry is a job.
I recalled this frustration on Saturday as I was scrubbing the toilet in my bathroom. I was thinking of the wedding I was to officiate later that afternoon and wondering, “What would the bride and groom think to know that, hours before their wedding, the minister is up to his wrists in toilet bowl cleaner? Would it bother them to realize that their special day, for me, is bathroom cleaning day, and also the day to put away all the Christmas decorations and do the week’s grocery shopping? How would they feel to realize that their wedding is but one item on my list of things to do on The Biggest Day of Their Lives?”
Here’s where that thinking lands for me: the spiritual thoughts and meaningful interpersonal interactions I used to imagine pastors having all the time can either happen at the expense of all the other things that grown up life in the modern world involves (especially life with a family) or in the midst of them. For me it’s the latter; I’m choosing to think about the wedding–or the sermon or the Confirmation lesson or the committee meeting–as I’m cleaning the toilet, not instead of cleaning the toilet.
This means that the frame of mind I’m in at the wedding doesn’t feel very “spiritual” sometimes, and honestly I’m sure people see right through it. I’m fighting back thoughts about dinner preparations during the vows, and I’m sure everyone there can sense it. Doing good work like this demands the ability to be fully present to the significant ministry moment we’re leading even as we are experiencing the mental and emotional pull of responsibilities outside these walls.
Scrub the toilet while you’re thinking about the wedding. Do the wedding as if the toilet doesn’t need scrubbed. You can do both. You don’t have to choose.