I’m not sure why the pastorate produces so much anxiety. I suppose you have the performative aspects of it. After so many years, I still toss and turn until my sheets twist into a jumbled mess the night before a sermon or lecture. My mind preaches all night, figuring out how to say it better. I never seem to get to that point of deep sleep.
Are we condemned to be always anxious in our belief? Insofar as our efforts are directed inward, at appeasing or pacifying our own anxieties, the answer is yes. But when we allow our anxieties to become actions, when we perform concrete things in the name of faith, then we gradually begin to find ourselves inching forward on a rope ladder of action strung high over the abyss of unbelief, and our gaze becomes focused on what is ahead of us rather than forever staring paralyzed down.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to work for a semester as a chaplain at a Boston jail. My primary work was helping to lead a group of inmates in the practice of silent prayer. I cannot say that I had any particular expectations or resolves about this undertaking before I began it.