I thought I would give some insight into what Sundays are like for me as an introvert who is also a preacher. I don’t claim that this is how other preachers feel, only that this is how I experience Sundays.
The alarm goes off, its incessant and monotone voice chasing away sleep from my body. As my mind begins its daily routine of booting up I realize that today’s the day. My body slowly rises, like the creature from the black lagoon, until I am a heap on the edge of the bed. My prayer is the same every Sunday when I first wake up, “Lord, help me do this in such a way that you get the glory.” I check the fire inside and see it’s burning steady. Then it’s off to the shower.
Coffee is my friend once I reach the office. He speaks to me softly, slowly heightening my senses to a state of full awareness. I can feel his warmth spread through my limbs giving them energy. Soon my hands are busy making copies, printing outlines for the slideshow operator, setting up the sound system and syncing the laptop with the digital projector. I cherish these moments on Sunday mornings. The building is quiet; at peace. The morning light filters through the green stained-glass windows onto pews that will soon be filled with people. The stillness of the hour carries with it a subtle holiness. It’s as if the building itself is worshiping before congregants chase away the sacred silence with holy noises of their own. In this solitude I collect my energy for the events of the day. My mind is consumed with Sunday School lessons, sermon points, afternoon meetings and Bible Study presentations. I do one final check to make sure the announcement slides haven’t left anything out before I head to my study to begin my final preparations. Again I check the inner fire and pray, “Lord, help me do this.”
My study becomes my armory before the battle. I begin suiting up with prayer. I wield my sword, hefting its familiar weight in my hands, making sure the point is sharp and the blade is honed. I stoke the fire within until it threatens to burn out of control. Sure, to the untrained eye it looks like I’m sitting at my desk praying and reading my Bible, but I am waging spiritual warfare as well as an internal one that I fight every Sunday morning. Questions fly at me unbidden. Questions that threaten to cripple me before the day even starts.
“Am I qualified to do this?”
“What if everybody falls asleep?”
“Am I really making a difference?”
“What if I expose too much of my inner self and people see how weak and broken I am? Will they reject me?”
I know the questions are from Satan; questions that are meant to make me second guess myself and my message. And all the while, the fire that burns within grows hotter.
I hear gravel crunching beneath tires. Doors open, and the first worshipers of the day arrive. Now begins the real crunch time for me. All the energy I have gathered in my solitude has been collected inside me. I’m like a giant Pez dispenser filled with tiny bits of energy, and each interaction with each person will take a small bite out of me as the Pez dispenser clicks towards empty.
“Good Morning! How are you today?” [click]
“I’ve got a question about this morning’s lesson.” [click]
“Can I talk to you about visiting my uncle/cousin/grandmother?” [click] [click] [click]
Don’t get me wrong. I love my church family, and I don’t blame them. I chose this ministry (or did it choose me? I go round and round with that question.) And I know that tomorrow I will be able to regroup and restore, but for today I must settle for giving tiny bits of myself away all the while making sure the fire doesn’t get snuffed.
By the time I make it to the main building it is brimming with conversation. The building is a pot simmering on the stove. Relationships are being built. Different flavors of life are mixing and melding together inside this giant stock pot we call community. Greetings and discussions bubble all around and often a peal of laughter threatens to boil over. I jump into the water headfirst [click] [click] [click]. Soon it’s time to sing and go over the prayer list. I kick myself over a name I forgot to add and nod at the mention of another that has taken a turn for the worse. We sing another song and it’s off to Sunday School.
I look at familiar faces. We share some laughs and sometimes, on the good Sundays, we share some tears too. This group is so familiar that I barely notice my energy [click]ing away. Forty-five quick minutes later, and I’m off to the worship service. The furnace of my heart is white hot.
It’s time to jump in the soup pot again. It’s more full and robust than it was an hour ago. I know the aroma must be pleasing to God. We sing. We pray. We break bread. Then I hear Him. It’s Jesus. He whispers to me, “It’s time.” I pray again, “Lord, help me do this” and then I stand up.
The fire within takes over. I give up trying to control it. I’ve been stoking it all week and if I don’t release it I will be consumed. I’m blazing. The fire gives light. It gives hope. It gives energy to those who see it. But it also consumes. I can feel myself turning to ash. [click] [click] [click] [click] [click]. Thirty minutes later all that is left are a few embers and a pile of charred wood. I am spent, exhausted, and nearly burned out, yet there is still a spark of life; a phoenix waiting to blaze again. God loves the resurrection theme, and I see it played out every week as I am consumed by fire on Sunday only to be restored on Monday so I can begin gathering wood for next week’s fire.
I shake hands with people. They don’t notice the ash, and I don’t point it out to them. It’s not their burden. As the last people depart with a smile and a handshake I can feel the last of my energy being spent [click]. The dispenser is empty. I shut down computers and projectors and my brain. If anybody makes a request of me, my wife will remind me tomorrow. She’s one of the few who sees the ashes; who sees the emptiness; who sees the need to recharge and rekindle.
I’m exhausted. I’m burned. I’m empty.
And I can’t wait to do it again next week.