One Sunday morning he slept through the alarm. He just didn't feel up for church.
His wife elbowed him. "Get up. You'll be late to church."
"I don't want to go today. I'm tired. The people at that church aren't nice to me. They are unfriendly, they say things behind my back and I feel like they're always waiting for me to make a mistake, so they can pounce."
"Well that's too bad. You have to go. You're the interim pastor."
Have you ever felt like that?
Of course you have. You are an interim pastor. You deal with cantankerous saints, engage in spiritual warfare, carry the burden of spiritual care and deal with all your own stuff.
But feeling grumpy is just that - a feeling. Although it is more difficult for some than others to learn, it is still a fact: you have control over your behavior regardless of how you feel. You have within your grasp the tools needed to be gracious when feeling grumpy.
Here are six.
How a grump can be gracious
1. Be honest
Transparency and honesty is such an important quality that you absolutely must own the fact that you are feeling grumpy. One of the interim pastor's tasks is to instill transparency, humility and honesty into a dysfunctional church system.
You do that by modeling honest. So be honest about your grumpiness, but don't let it dictate your actions.
Look in the mirror and say, "I feel grumpy today, but I am going to treat others with grace and love."
There's no doubt about it. A smile on your face will lighten your mood [pullquote]David Lewis, a psychologist and director of research at Mindlab International in Brighton, England, which conducted the study, says a warm smile can create a "halo" effect, helping us "feel more optimistic, more positive, and more motivated."[/pullquote]
Make sure your smile is genuine; the difference between a fake smile and a genuine smile is the way that your eyes crinkle. People will know the difference.
Remember something that makes you smile or recall a favorite joke. Whatever it might be, find something to smile about. Then, dwell on that rather than on what's going on inside your own head.
3. Systems check
Mildly negative feelings are sometimes due to hunger or dehydration. Drink a glass of water and have a snack that has a good mix of carbohydrates and protein. Somehow or other a good Clif Bar does it for me.
I have also found that brief exercise helps. Even in your Sunday best you can take a quick walk around the church campus, go to your office and do a few quick stretches, or any other exercise that raises your heart rate just a bit. But make this a regular routine: regular exercise will help improve your mood for the long run.
4. Face it
Sometimes I am grumpy because there is someone I want to avoid. Interim pastors all have a list of people they'd like to avoid, but can't. That's just as well because avoidance increases anxiety and aggravates the problem. Problems are like produce; the longer they sit around the more they rot. Deal with it!
On Sunday morning just before the service you have two options. First, appoint an intermediary who will meet the problem person with you. You will not be able to deal with problems immediately before the service, but you can broach the subject and set a time to deal with it at length. Second, you could tell the other party that you would like to meet later that afternoon to have a chat.
Depending upon your emotional makeup this could be a bit of a tight rope for you. Bottling the conflict inside before you step into the pulpit is not going to do you any good.
5. Focus on action
Interim pastors are action oriented. We're problem solvers. That includes solving the fact that sometimes we feel like grumpy old men (or women).
If, on a Sunday morning, your mind is focused on negative feelings, you will be trapped in them. A mark of maturity is the ability to do the right thing in spite of how we feel.
When a cloud hovers overhead focus on greeting people with a sincere emotional embrace, make it a point to greet as many people as you can (perhaps offer a prayer for someone or inquire about their progress on a problem they've been dealing with). Focusing on caring behaviors quickly transports you out of your own negativity and into the lives of others.
6. Get help
No doubt you will have a few prayer warriors in the congregation. Seek them out and ask for urgent prayer. Let them know that you are feeling a bit negative today and you need their help so that those feelings won't interfere with your service that day.
Question: what gives you the ability to serve graciously in the power of the Holy Spirit when you feel beset with negative feelings?