In my dream I fell into conversation with one young married couple and turned our chat toward the subject of the Christian ministry. I asked the young man quietly, “Have you ever wondered if you were called to be a pastor?”
This young man in my dream resisted my question politely but his response surprised me. Although a believer he shied away from the subject saying that he wanted only to have an eight-hour job and then go home and relax.
But in my dream his wife was of a different mind. She thought that he should consider the ministry (even perhaps that God was calling him). She said that she was ready for such a challenge. The discussion went on ever so briefly in this vein until the dream faded without resolution.
This dream probably arose from my frequent daytime thoughts, and especially my reflections on a long life in Christian ministry. My memories are almost always positive. I have largely forgotten the heavy stresses of the calling, and the passing years have muted the memories of disappointments (both in myself and others), my failed efforts to meet certain needs, and occasional misunderstandings that temporarily strained good relationships.
Pleasant memories regarding the life of a pastor flow readily. They include shaping the life of a congregation by preaching weekly from the Scriptures; greeting a dispersing congregation one by one at the door after a Spirit-anointed Sunday morning worship service; knowing and being known by all the little ones in the congregation; sitting at a widow’s hospital bedside as she wept out her memories of a departed husband; sharing in the joys of a young couple’s wedding; visiting for the first time in the home of a family new to the congregation, and on and on. I think all such memories must be dream-starter materials.
Sixty-five years ago when Kathleen and I set our sights on preparing as thoroughly as possible for a lifetime of ministry the dreams had not yet begun. We had no starter material to dream of what blessings, surprises and even heartaches we would experience if we answered the call. We were like Abraham who “went out not knowing where he was going.”
Now we know broadly what Christian ministry entails. In retrospect, I’m sure that’s why I dream as I do. I can think of no blessing greater than to serve God full time under the Holy Spirit’s call and the church’s endorsement of that call through ordination.
The e-mails, letters, cards, phone calls and personal visits that come to us now with some regularity are enough to keep my dreams well stocked for months to come.
Last night’s dream as well as Kathleen’s and my storehouse of memories make us want to say to young people everywhere who are wrestling with a call to full-time ministry that life is richest and most fulfilling when it is lived in full obedience to God’s call — whatever that call may involve.