Why Pastors Fear Death More than You

Jason Micheli —  November 14, 2014 — 3 Comments

quote-well-the-themes-for-me-were-and-remain-sex-and-love-and-grief-and-death-the-things-that-make-us-thomas-lynch-116137I spent the day with a couple nervously standing vigil by their boy’s bedside in the PICU.

Their son, confirmed by me years ago, is only a few sizes and grades ahead of my eldest.

I can’t say much more than that, pastoral privilege and all.

What I can reveal:

Right after I left that family, I collected my youngest son, Gabriel.

We got in the car. Closed the doors. Buckled our seat belts (‘I beat you Daddy’).

I turned on the ignition. Looked in the rearview mirror at Gabriel behind me; he was wearing my faded UVA hat and smiling.

And I started to cry, suddenly feeling like I’d gotten into my car wearing someone else’s shoes.

Life is so infuriatingly fragile.

This isn’t something my boys have taught me.

My boys have no notion that while God may be good and gracious, life is seldom fair or forgiving.

It’s not a lesson my boys have taught me. It’s more like a lesson my job has taught me, a lesson I wasn’t in a position to learn until I had children. It’s more like now that I have skin in the game my vocation won’t let me forget just how fragile are my boys’ own skin and bones.

They’re here today…(down in the basement playing Legos, actually).

But tomorrow? The day after tomorrow?

I bring my work home with me.

I watch my boy turn his bike out the cul de sac for the first and I close my eyes to wait for the inevitable sound of screeching brakes.

I can’t drive by a car accident without imagining my own impending, parallel nightmare.

Standing in line at a roller coaster with my son, I can’t look at the twists and turns of the track without imagining my boy in the statistical margin for error.

Death is a big part of what I do.

The resurrection proclamation requires the dismal trade to precede it, make sense of it. 

If I punched a clock, several many hours of every year would be taken up by people mourning the sudden absence of someone who’d made their life whole.

I bring that absence home with me.

Or rather, like a nurse who comes home wearing a uniform with blood stains on it, that absence follows me home and there it gestates into something else: my own fear of absence.

Theirs.

And while if you caught me in a different mood I might say I’d prefer not to bring this part of my work home with me, it’s more true to admit that this near constant dread of their absence has woken me to something else, their presence in my life.

The sheer- as in flimsy– grace- as in unwarranted gift– of it.

Just like someone who doesn’t realize the pain of unbelief until they begin to believe, the fear of losing my boys calls out the greater joy of having them. 

Life is frageelay.

It wouldn’t be worth it otherwise. 

Jason Micheli

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3 responses to Why Pastors Fear Death More than You

  1. So true. Children are a gift that change our life…but just wait until you experience grandchildren!

  2. Paula Crane Thomson November 14, 2014 at 10:55 AM

    I identified with this post on a deep level. I’m not a pastor, though I have worked in the administrative offices for my church for almost 17 years. I have been, to varying degrees, a witness to/part of the great joys and deep sorrows of the congregants I’ve grown to love. I have also experienced great tragedy in my own life – the sudden aloneness. I’ve sometimes felt that my faith is not big enough because of the fears I experience; the fears of which you speak – “perfect love casts out fear” and all of that. I appreciate the way you are, many times, able to put into words the very things I feel. Life is so tenuous and fleeting…I wish everyone could deeply feel that truth. Maybe this is really a good fear – the kind that gives you a deep and abiding appreciation for the smallness of yourself and your time and the vastness of God and endlessness of His. Thanks for sharing yourself.

  3. This is stunning, Jason.

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