I recently heard these words about the clergy, “I don’t want [spiritual] direction by some pious fool who doesn't know what real life is about.”
Sometimes I hear that there is a difference between Church, the life and ministry of clergy, and the REAL WORLD. This is what I say when I hear words about how clergy don’t know what real life is about.
The clergy I know work over 50+ hours a week – many more than 60. They are not compensated fairly for their level of expertise but do it out of a sense of calling and devotion to God’s people.Clergy labor under the stresses and strains of a job at the crossroads of business, religion, spirituality, and public speaking. They take potshots from members of the church about how this or that was not quite good enough; meanwhile, they manage crisis after crisis. Their families at times are poorly treated by members of the congregation. Mothers glared at for noisy children, parishioners yelling at spouses because something the priest said or did. Yet, clergy walk with people through cancer, fevers, illness, deaths of beloved parents, suicides, and the death of a child. They have stepped bravely into the midst of family crisis often times taking arrows from the very people they are trying to help. They try and broaden their people's horizons on issues affecting the culture while being told they are heretical or having their job threatened. They have fought against racism and all manner of evil at great personal cost. I know many who have sat in hospital rooms with parents holding dead infants, sat at the bedside of a dying parishioner who had no family, and pulled over at the roadside to pray and help a stranger. I know still others who have gone into battle with their brothers and sisters in foreign lands. Clergy have called together communities to rescue people from slavery, to feed the poor, and to give voice to the voiceless. I know clergy who have heard literally thousands of 5th steps, confessions, and lies - and they have kept the faith.
So this is what I think. If anyone knows about the real world it is the clergy person, the deacon, the priest and bishop, only they can be foolish enough to have faith given everything they have seen and experienced. They not only know what real life is about, they have committed their whole life to walking with people through it regardless of what it brings, regardless of the faithful and the faithless, and regardless of where it leads. So today, in this real world I live in, I give thanks for the men and women with whom I get to share this life of ministry.