Writings by Cole Huffman

The Eye That Stinks A Pastor

“The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey a mother will be picked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures” (Proverbs 30:17).
Pleasant thought.  But it is Agur’s proverbial way of saying take seriously God’s injunction to honor one’s father and mother (cf. Exodus 20:12); reject this and you will come to some kind of an inglorious end.
I wonder what Agur would say about the eye that stinks a pastor?  I got the stink-eye recently from a couple of my church members who I’m sure pray for me…to leave.  Why I am confident of the disdain of these particular folk I cannot divulge.  But it is every pastor’s lot to have at least a few boo-birds in his church.  And no, 1 Chronicles 16:22 (“Touch not my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm!”) is not for pastors the equivalency to Exodus 20:12 for parents.  So I have no biblical permission to begin flapping my arms and making vulture noises as I pass by my disdainers in the hall.
Pray for them?  I try.  I really do.  Be kind to them?  Yes, that too.  I said a cheerful hello to them even though I knew they would grunt an acknowledgement of my presence in return.  And you know what?  It hurts.  Yes, I’m a big boy but it still hurts to be disliked.  God knows I don’t want anyone to dislike me.  I find most pastors I know are like this.  And when one thinks about it, this is just as it needs to be for pastors.  We are especially sensitive to others, even when it’s the sensitivity of picking up on their scorn, because this is part of the standard operating equipment God puts into the shepherds of His church.
However, too many pastors are oversensitive.  As I’ve said before, a lot of us have glass jaws.  Meaning we can’t take a punch.  I take very few in my church, I’m thankful to say.  The eyes who stink me are vastly outnumbered by those whose graciousness and forbearance and love and affirmations and trust I am abysmally unworthy of but fabulously encouraged by. 
When I was younger in ministry, I used to naively think I could get relationships from sideways to right side up by facing the problem (sorry, the person, I mean) over a meal.  Then I had some meals wherein the person across the table all but took their fork to my eyes to feed to their pet vulture at home (because, you know, everybody who dislikes their pastor obviously has one).  After getting stink-eyed by the two people mentioned above, I thought about returning to where they were and inviting them to my home for dinner, just to see their reaction. 
The more I think on that though, I probably should have, and meant it.  (And when my wife reads this we probably will!)  It’s not naïve to at least try to reach out to one who has a low estimation of you.  Perhaps all my disdainers need is a chance to get to know me (and my family) better.  In the case of the two who stinked me recently, though, I don’t think they’re jumping for this chance.  Or maybe it’s that I don’t have the energy (the apostle John would say the love) to take the chance myself.  I've found in the passage of ministry years that when I get the stink-eye now I try to pray for the person and be kind to him, but really I just don’t want to see him or her again.  I've found in the passage of ministry years that I'm less inclined than I used to be to try to repair difficult relationships.  There's a feeling that it isn't worth the effort although I know this is not true and I have to fight it off.  God is working on me in this, and using my current series in 1 John in doing so, but I still have a way to go.

Posted by Cole Huffman at 9:44 PM
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