The parson was in a meeting. It was a good meeting. There were no arguments, no posturing. The pastors and laity gathered around the tables were reviewing some significant accomplishments in an area cooperative ministry and were previewing more ministry to come.
The parson took an inventory of the little more than half dozen pastors there. They ranged in age from the early thirties to one who was only a decade below the parson. They were a mixture of race and gender. The parson studied the faces of each ordained participant. The lines on their face etched a picture of their ministries.
One, that one just below the parson's longevity, had many creases on his face. Some spiraled out from the edge of his eyes as though hinting of a lifetime of laughter and amusement, and speaking of one who'd found his place in the scheme of things and found joy being where he was.
The brow of another was wrinkled. She'd been assigned a difficult church. The parson knew her church well. And he knew her well. He'd never been sure if her having been sent to that particular congregation was a slap at the congregation from a supervisor who knew they'd bristle at a female pastor or a slap at her for being the determined pastor she was.
Directly across the table from the parson one pastor, new to the area and new to this group, sat with eyebrows puckered as though trying to come to grips with the magnitude of the ministries being talked about and the constant reminders of the other pastors his congregation needed to become more supportive of the work.
A particular pastor, at the end of the table, almost apart from the group, appeared to have no lines of distinction on her face. She sat doodling on her pad seemingly oblivious to the flow of talk unless asked a direct question.
Having surveyed the folks the parson smiled as he wondered what the many wrinkles on his face might say. And then he looked to his left and studied once again the face of a middle aged pastor who was serving a fairly wealthy but inward focused congregation, but who day after day after day after day and sermon after sermon after sermon after sermon and meeting after meeting after meeting after meeting, year after year after year, reminded the congregation that God was calling them to something higher, something more fulfilling, something more redemptive. And all that he did with such a love that none of the members he pestered and chastised would have a thought of asking for another pastor.
The parson spoke a silent prayer that he might wear the lines on his face with such distinction and heavenly grace.