Encouraging My Younger Self

I’m trying something a little different. Writing about my memories as a pastor has been difficult. I tend to relive the pain of the experiences. But I heard something yesterday that made me try to imagine going back as the person I am now to support the person I was back then.

This harkens back to a post I wrote here.

The young pastor had driven the ambulance to the scene and wore the white smock of the volunteer emergency service. He watched as people flailed their shovels into a ton of fertilizer to find their friend who was buried underneath.  The man was going to be dead when they found him, but they worked feverishly with the scant hope that they might yet save him. Two burly young men, the man’s sons, with shovels still in their hands, watched as their father’s body was pulled out.

The pastor also served as a chaplain in situations like these. As he watched the people run and shout and try and fail and cry, he found himself about to burst into tears. But he realized he had to try to comfort them all, including those two young men.  So he swallowed hard and went to work, speaking to the sons, hugging them both. The rest of the afternoon, he listened to the people who had been there and needed to process their shock. 

The pastor was twenty-four years old. 

I go to him and stand invisible beside him. 

“I’m here,” I whisper to him as he watches from the sidelines. “You don’t know it but I’m putting my arms around you and holding you together.

“This is a defining moment for you,” I continue. “You want to run away, but instead you will step into the chaos and try to heal the people who have just been shattered.

“You already know that you have no words, no special skills, and no magic to make it better.  But you’ll still step into the fray to help. You’ll do this over and over again, year after year, when you’re exhausted, sad, and even very sick.”

I point to the people and say, “They don’t know the price you’ll pay. They don’t know how lonely you are and that you feel like a failure.  But you’re the hero of this story.

“Now it’s time to go to work.”

I let him go and watch him wade into the crowd.

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