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Curing the Clinical Heart

by Joe Pursch on May 2nd, 2011

“But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherishing her children: so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls…”  1 Thessalonians 2:7-8

It’s so easy to become clinical as a pastor; to begin treating people as parts of the system, or checkboxes on a do-list. This becomes especially tempting to a pastor who is walking through an unusual season of people demands or pressures (as if there’s any “usual” season in our work!).

Lately I’ve been in one of those seasons. We’ve been walking as a church through some constitutional changes, a major leadership transition on staff, and more than one shared experience of tragic death. The last of these has been an especially difficult course. I struggled with being emotionally present with all those who needed my care. But I think I can say that I’ve learned something about “preceding critical moments” with a short season of private prayer. Before I stepped across the threshold of a hospital room, or pressed on the screen of my BlackBerry the name and number of a particularly grieving friend for whom I had no words, just ushering myself into the presence of the Father made a difference. Because of this, I may not have been “spectacular” in my wisdom in those painful moments, but I think I was real. And I know I wasn’t clinical.

Sir William Osler, a famous British physician of generations ago wrote words of caution for all of us in the caring professions. Consider them:

“The practice of medicine is an art, not a trade; a calling, not a business; a calling in which your heart will be exercised equally with your head. Often the best part of your work will have nothing to do with potions and powders, but with the exercise of an influence of the strong upon the weak, of the righteous upon the wicked, of the wise upon the foolish. To you, as the trusted family counselor, the father will come with his anxieties, the mother with her hidden grief, the daughter with her trials, and the son with his follies. Fully one-third of the work you do will be entered in other books than yours.”



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