My recent adventures in learning to care more

I’ve written before about my Lenten resolution to stop worrying about the appearance of being a caring person and focus instead on being a caring person. I spoke with a clergy friend this morning who knew exactly what I meant—even as he said something that seemed to contradict what I wrote.

He said, “I’ve found that there’s no difference between appearing to care and actually caring.” And I said, “That’s exactly right!

Here’s what I mean: We pastors don’t have the luxury of reserving pastoral care for times when we feel like providing it. My parishioner didn’t check my schedule before he went to the hospital for that emergency appendectomy, and the fact that I had planned on spending Sunday afternoon napping is irrelevant. Likewise, death is always inconvenient. It never waits, for example, for me to finish writing my sermon. It doesn’t even respect my vacation schedule! Unlike Emily Dickinson, we pastors have to stop for death. It’s part of our job.

So sometimes, for the sake of appearances and to ensure that we’ll continue to have a job, we have to appear to care, even when we don’t—or at least not enough to want to interrupt whatever else we have going on.

But here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter whether we want to or not, at least in my experience. When I do it anyway, despite my feelings, I find that I do end up caring—a great deal. It doesn’t feel like I’m simply going through the motions anymore.

If these words are applicable to Christians in general, and not just us professional caregivers, I would say this: Disregard your feelings, your schedule, your other commitments, and take the time and effort to care.  I know it’s often inconvenient. But see what happens.

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