You might remember a previous article about Ernie. He’s the exterminator who works to keep our church pest free. I like Ernie. On his quarterly visits, our conversations about family, friends, and faith are usually the highlight of my day. This winter, like last year, we’re having a problem with rodents. I’ve even had a few in my office. Though never during the day, they leave tell-tell signs of their nighttime wanderings. In addition to spraying, Ernie comes and resets large rat and mice traps. Despite my Christian love for all of God’s creation, I want the rodents gone from my office.
Today, before Ernie left, he stopped at my office door and turned back for a moment and asked, “Is there anything going on in your life that I can pray about?” The question threw me for a loop. Prayer isn’t strange to me. I’m used to talking about prayer and praying with others. Did you catch the difference? I ask the questions. I can’t remember the last time someone asked me what was going on in my life and if they could pray for me. My job is to pray for others. It’s easy to forget that others need and even want to pray for me.
I told Ernie what was going on. He listened and asked a few perceptive questions. In those moments, we switched roles. He was ministering to me. I wasn’t Pastor Bryant, the preacher with the rodent problem. I was someone in need of prayer. Ernie prayed for my family and me. As I said, I can’t remember the last time someone stopped what they were doing and prayed for me and my life. I think that says a lot about how people treat preachers. We are treated like disposable toys. Place us where you want in the positions you see fit. If we don’t function properly, bang us until we work again or break from being used in a way God never intended. If we do not say the right words or go along to get along; then we will be discarded in the name of a righteous God. When we’re empty, we will be berated for not understanding the word Sabbath. Our disposal will be our own fault. No one will ever ask, “Did we ask was there something going on in their life we could pray about?” No, they will not. Because that’s not how the world works.
Ernie cared enough about my ministry to minister to me. He didn’t have to but he did. Some center, a high priced leadership group for education or ministry needs to invite Ernie to be a speaker. He gets what none of the ones I see advertised (or have attended) understand. Empathy works both ways. If you don’t have that, everything you do, no matter how traditionally you view marriage, is dysfunctional.
Richard Lowell Bryant