the high cost of love (O love that will not let me go)

IMG_0409There is one element of “the life of a pastor” I’d like to try to write about that I haven’t covered before. But I’m not quite sure where to begin.

The job – “minister of word and sacrament” – is a huge, wide-ranging, and demanding responsibility. That is true in a small or average-sized congregation, and it is even more so in a church with several hundreds of people in the family.

WFPC is an extremely active church. There’s a tremendous amount going on; lots of people involved; innovation and creativity; movement forward into the future; high commitment levels; high stakes; challenges and opportunities, people deeply vested in ministries they are passionate about…

This is not one of those churches that is even vaguely interested in coasting; fact is, we’re still gathering momentum. In consequence, there is enough meaningful work around this place to keep our cutting edge professional staff more than fully engaged, plus two pastors. Add to that the responsibilities handled by elders, deacons, and scores of team members representing everything from worship, to discipleship, to mission, to children, to facilities, to member care, to Stephen Ministry – and so much more, and we have literally hundreds of energetic people investing themselves – full-tilt – in a complex, Jesus-centered organization with a vision expressed in the following words (at

“Responding to God’s call in our lives, Wake Forest Presbyterian seeks to nurture Christ-like relationships and challenge each other to grow in discipleship while embodying Christ’s Church in the world.”


MY JOB: That being said, I see my most important calling as a preacher’s spouse (clergy-hubby) as that of providing a safe, nurturing, nourishing, relaxing home for Rebekah. Because, and in addition to the relentless administrative responsibilities of pastoring a church like the one described above, there is a tremendous emotional cost to love, and Rebekah does not hold back when it comes to opening, to baring, to giving her heart.

There’s a great story from the Gospels where Jesus, jostled in a crowd of people, senses power literally flowing out of him. In my imagination I see him pause, put a hand on the shoulder of one of the disciples to steady himself, and bend slightly at the waist as if having taken a punch to the gut. Because healing – other people’s healing – always costs something.

Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” – Luke 8:40-48

BUILD WALLS: I know people – including ministers – who guard against the high cost of love by building walls around themselves, by consciously not falling in love, by keeping a “safe” distance from other people’s emotions, and their own. But the valve in and the valve out turn out to be in the same place, and what they are really cutting off is being filled, and they end up empty anyway.

When people are hurting; when people are angry, or grieving, or confused; when people ache for their children, or their spouse, or themselves; when people are scared; when people face situations and emotions that can only be addressed in the context of their relationship with God… quite often Rebekah holds their hand – and she can feel the power go out.

God is good; God is gracious and generous; God is the source of love and of light. But God has also chosen to accomplish much of the work of healing through those of us who live as disciples of Jesus – and love of that quality always costs something.

img_3953HOME: And so this home of ours is an important sanctuary of replenishment and refreshment. I want our home (Maul-Hall and WFPC) to be a well-spring of light and love. I want us to be faithful, not only to Jesus, but to the imperative of costly love.

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.  (George Matthenson, 1882)

6 thoughts on “the high cost of love (O love that will not let me go)

  1. Joanne Alston

    Derek, I’m not sure what to make of this. Is there anything you want us to do or not do to make y’all’s life less stressful? I know that Rebekah does need to be more than 2 people to do what we ask of her. I know I pray for her at least once a day. Now I see I need to add you to that prayer. Your Deacon wants to take good care of you guys Love

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – but there’s nothing “to make of this”!
      The post is simply a description of what it means to pastor an active church, and what it means to love without reservation.
      I don’t see any plea for less stress in the post – nor a complaint that there is too much. Just a description of what a pastor can be when they fall in love with a church, and how my role fits with it… – DEREK

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kelly

    As a fellow preacher’s spouse, I appreciate this post! I think I fail more often than succeed in providing the “peaceful” part (three others in our house might have something to do with that too!), but keep trying, right? Thanks to you and Rebekah for setting a good example for us early in our marriage, Derek!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks a bunch, Kelly! There’s a different kind of peace in your house (and it has nothing to do with “quiet”). Looking forward to experiencing some of that soon – 🙂


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