If I had my druthers there are many days I would not be a pastor, preacher, or public pray-er!
I feel the need for a disclaimer here. I love my work. I have a great gig. It really is "the best job in the world." That said, it is taxing work. Pastoring is a job one never really leaves at the office. Preaching is a joyful burden. Sundays come with great regularity; with them the need for a fresh new message that is appropriately interesting enough and deep enough and practical enough. Then there is praying in public. At times it just puts me uncomfortably on the spot.
Truth be told, there are days when I would prefer a more quiet life. Give me the seclusion of my study. Let me read, learn, reflect, and then write about it. I'll even carry all that learning to the classroom. For me, teaching requires far less emotional energy than preaching.
I am thirty-five years into my work. At this point God has not granted me the quiet life of the secluded study. Instead, it seems he is always pushing me out of my comfort zone, exposing my weaknesses. He has been doing this for years.
I have framed poem I keep in my office that describes my pushy God and his deeper purposes.
Bly describes the "pulsing hand" of God that drivers her. I have felt that same hand driving me over the challenging peaks and through the deep ravines and spidering brambles of my weakness.
Why? Why does God expose me to inward angst and potential humiliation? He does it so that I might know him. Were I left to my devices, choosing the "easier path," I would have little need for God. As it is, my weakness is actually the open door through which the grace and power of God enters. Jesus told Paul:
Commenting on this verse, D.E. Garland writes,
We learn from the message given to Paul that God’s grace is not just the unmerited favor that saves us but a force that also sustains us throughout our lives. The modifier “my” in “my power,” is important. Paul is not speaking about power in general, but “the power of Christ” revealed in the crucifixion and resurrection.
Armed with that amazing truth, Paul decides to revel in his weakness. Like Jacob of old, Paul may walk with a proverbial limp, but every step is a reminder of the God who meets him, strengthens him, and sustains him with resurrection power. That is grace -- perhaps not the version I desire -- but grace indeed.
Paul knows this truth experientially. God wants me to have that same experience and he wants you to have it too. That means he will not always deliver us from our weakness. Instead, Jesus will show up in the midst of our weakness. We will feel that pulsing hand giving us a little push out of our comfort zone. And that is good . . . for God never pushes us without also supplying the power to take the next step.
"We learn from the message ..." from Garland, D. E. (1999). Vol. 29: 2 Corinthians. The New American Commentary (524). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.