But I want to solve the problem.

I’m reading The Contemplative Pastor. Again. (I wrote about it before.)

Eugene Peterson says that pastors ought to be less concerned with running the church and more concerned with “the cure of souls.” He says that one of the things that messes us up, pastors that is, is that we start looking at situations as problems to solve. We start looking for the fixes, the solutions, the strategies, the steps.

  • “Take these three verses and call me in the morning.”
  • “Try these four things to make your marriage perfect and your kids delightful.”
  • “Do this and this and this, it will turn out great.”

I offer solutions all the time. But I’m not sure that’s always helpful. It teaches you and me that everything can be solved by three or four or several steps. And as we saw yesterday in the story of the three friends, some situations aren’t problems to be solved. They are stories to be lived. They are processes that are played out. They are steps of obedience that are the same thing over and over and over and over. Being faithful is doing the same thing regardless of the situation. Finding out that God can provide wisdom means being in confusing situations that require us to call out for wisdom.

I want problems to be solved as much as the next person. But the longer I live, the more I discover that I often don’t even know what the problem is, let alone the solution.

And so I am slowly opening myself up to not having answers. To waiting. To listening. To take the breath that sometimes goes to giving quick answers and slowly releasing it. I still need reminders from Nancy: “Listen to what you tell others.”

Deep down, I trust God. Mostly. And more.


6 thoughts on “But I want to solve the problem.

  1. Frank Reed

    Jon – Thanks for reminding me to consider Thomas Merton again regarding contemplative prayer. It’s so hard to listen for God bit He speaks through people and circumstances if only I would stop to pay attention. I am never as alone as I think I am.


  2. Becky McCray

    I also want to solve the problems, to hand out solutions. If I don’t have solutions, I often don’t know what to offer. (Of course, this is in a completely different field.) But I’m working on not always offering solutions and suggestions. I’m trying turning it around with questions, more than solutions.


  3. Donna Dobey

    I’m not even a pastor and you are getting in my head. You just say it so much clearer than I can even think it. Thank you for offering this thought provokin forum.


  4. Jim Hughes

    I’ve come to believe that far more people just need someone to listen to them and show interest in them than to have someone give them a solution or a fix — which is a 180 degree turn for me. Our culture sells solutions. Virtually every business book and most popular Christian books follow that theme. And the problem, of course, is that most of the time the solutions don’t work out so well for anyone except the author and publisher. Peterson masterfully reminds us of what’s important. Thanks for writing!


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