Confessions of a Preoccupied Pastor


I am absent minded! I loose tract of my eyeglasses and my beverage everyday. When I get ready to go somewhere, I often return to the house from the garage to pick up something I should have taken with me. Behind the wheel, if I am in conversation, or deep thought, the odds of me missing a turn are roughly 50 /50.

My mind is out in front of my reality. It is playing advance man, while AWOL from the present. It’s not terribly uncommon for people to tell me something, only to have me embarrassingly proceed as though they never said a thing.

My family and few close friends are painfully aware of my self-induced dementia. I have always been this way. My fear is that someday I might have Alzheimer’s or dementia of some other variety, and no one will notice. That’s the family joke, anyway, if we can joke about such things.

“Your Dad is out wandering in the street.”

“Oh, he has always done that.”

What is so preoccupying my mind to such a degree that I have lost touch with the present?

Usually I am thinking about the future, or the past. That’s what people worry about. Things that have happened, that they can’t change, and things that may never happen, and can’t be dealt with, because they are in the future, and likely, will never happen.

My obsessive-compulsive tendencies and Christianity made for a preoccupied life.

My role as a pastor consumed my life. It was my identity; and that identity turbocharged my ODC.

My behavior and mental process was fueled by expectations, expectations others have of me, expectations I have of others, and worse of all, expectations I have of myself.

All of those expectations were, at least, doubled, because I was a pastor. That’s why pastors flame out, drop out, and opt out. The immense weight and wide array of expectations thrust upon them, along with the ones their hyper-responsible personality generates is simply too much!

The sheer weight of my responsibilities, coupled with an excessive sense of personal responsibility, a belief that church work was the most important thing in the world, and the need to be needed, led me to literally ignore my neighbor while on my way to a church meeting. I was the Levite in the story on The Good Samaritan, too busy with my religious duties to help someone in need.

Here is a sample of my self-talk. (Everybody talks to himself or herself.)

Future-oriented self-talk:

  • “Let’s see, what’s next?”
  • “Are you sure that’s best order to do things?”
  • “How will I do it?”
  • “What will I say?”
  • “What will they think of me?”
  • “I hope this isn’t another flop or disappointment.”

Past-oriented self-talk:

  • “Why doesn’t he like me?”
  • “Why hasn’t he contacted me?”
  • “Did I do something wrong?”
  • “I can’t believe I did that! I am so ashamed!”
  • “I need to review (again and again) all of the decisions that got me here, to see if I did something wrong.”

This is the kind of mental spin cycle kept me from being completely present in the moment. But, I am happy to report, I am doing much better now.


Photo Credit: Bark. Creative Commons.

About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply