This has been a hard week. It began with the passing of a beautiful 15-year old girl from our church. She had been battling bone cancer for a couple of years and went to be with Jesus last Sunday. Matt had been spending considerable amount of time with the family prior to her passing, to be a source of comfort, strength, prayer, wisdom, and whatever else a family in such a situation needs. He was there when our little friend took her last breath, and he accompanied the family through planning the funeral, choosing the casket, and making sure all the arrangements were made.
On Tuesday he spent the afternoon and evening with them at the viewing, and on Wednesday he performed part of her funeral, held at our church, before a crowd of about six hundred people. When he got into the car after the funeral was over, he broke down in exhaustion and grief. We made our way to the graveside service, accompanied the family home for a few more minutes and left. Matt has been in full-time ministry for eight years now. This sweet teenager was the first member a congregation he pastored to die.
The next day he stayed home to rest after what had been four grueling days. Late that night he received a call from a dear friend and congregation member stating that her husband had a heart attack and was recovering in CICU. Off he went to the hospital to pray with them and be their pastor. The next morning he got up early to take me to the doctor, for I had not been feeling well for a few days. The diagnosis: pneumonia. Since I was bed-ridden and very sick he had been taking care of the children and me, visiting the hospital, going to be instructed on how to take care of two different households full of cats that we would watch over the weekend while their owners were away, and trying to squeeze the necessary work that is required to hold a Sunday morning service, including preaching and leading worship.
Last night I walked into the living room feverish and miserable, and I found him listening to a broadcast of his beloved football team playing and folding laundry. Later on he got up in the middle of the night to hand me medicine and rub my back. Sunday he will stand in front of his congregation and deliver a sermon he has carefully researched and prepared and nobody but I will notice the stress marks around his mouth or the few extra gray hairs he developed this week.
And I simply watched and marveled. Because I married the man I have a certain bias, this I know. Sometimes it is a positive bias that sees the things he does as wonderful and sometimes I can be his worst critic because I know what he is capable of accomplishing. But this week I saw a side of him I had not had the privilege to experience before. This is not a tribute to a husband or a man; this is a tribute to my pastor. I knew just how broken he was about L’s death, how much he agonized to find the right words to say that would paint the picture of the wonderful human being that she was, and how much he prayed for her family as they dealt with her loss. I saw him hop to his feet, weary as he was, and jump in his car to get to the hospital when his friend needed him by his side in the CICU. I’ve witnessed him feeding, bathing, playing and reading to our kids at the end of the last few long days, then come to our room to make sure I had water, a blanket, or a kiss. And come Sunday, I will sit in the front row as he brings us words from God to encourage us and challenge us.
You may know lots of pastors who do this on a regular basis. This is what the good ones do. I just happened to have a front row seat this week into the world of one and a pair of eyes willing to pay attention. I thought about the old cliché: “what is the measure of a man?” Matt loves his congregation deeply, his family tenderly, and his God passionately. And because he loves them, he serves them unconditionally. I thought about the words of Jesus in Matthew 20:19 when he states that “whoever wants to be great among you must be a servant.” Matt serves. His understanding of Christ is that of a loving God who takes care of his people and that is the image of God he strives to portray every day of his life. What the measure of a man is can be debated. But the measure of my pastor is love.