Lost in Vocational Ministry
A question was asked in a tweet, “If you weren’t a pastor what would you do your a living.”
While many people responded with the somewhat expected, “teacher”, “writer”, “Batman” alternatives… I found myself wanting to comment “Anything.”
It’s been a decade and a half and one thing is certain, the pastorate is a lonely profession. No one told me on my Bible College and Seminary path to the pastorate that my personal identity would in many ways be printed over by my vocation.
I am the one who influences the language choices of others in large group gatherings, because people have feelings about cursing in front of a pastor.
I am the one who has been trained to turn down a beer with friends because of who might see their pastor enjoying an adult beverage at the local bar.
I am the one who can’t have doubts or insecurities without church leadership and congregant concerned about the stability of the church’s direction and future.
I am the one whose voice is often muted by the fear deep pockets and popular opinion hold over my head.
While God is the great I AM, it is often greater for me to be pastor to others than I am allowed to be myself. And I have been pastor, often, at the expense of knowing and being myself.
It is in this pondering where I’ve admitted for the first time that I think I became a pastor because I was never good enough. Somehow, in some divine way, my being a pastor would resolve my shortcomings.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t good enough for my parents, they thought I was great to the point of bolstering a young man’s narcissism. It wasn’t that I wasn’t good enough for God, I had an uncanny understanding of grace at a young age (something I discovered is wildly uncommon after enduring a theological education surrounded by others who had no idea the freedom of grace). My not being good enough had nothing to do with any specific outside voice, in fact, the most dangerous influence was internal.
I wasn’t good enough… for me.
And this, ultimately, has kept me from knowing myself in any meaningful capacity until just recently.
So the memories of years lost haunt me like an anxiety filled hot air balloon: ascending and pointless.
Can you relate to how difficult it is to be shaped by the love offered to you when you aren’t able to produce the same love for yourself? To be definied as a pastor, a shepherd, a “person of God,” one who has been shaped by the gracious love of Christ… all the while not loving the very person who has been shaped by said divine love? It’s fraudulent. It’s hypocritical. It’s exhausting. So I’m intellectual enough to understand the idea of Gods love, spiritual enough to accept it, and human enough to not love that being despite it being me.
Can you relate to only loving yourself in certain moments or unique situations? A lived experience which leaves one attempting to control aspects of life so they might love themselves even momentarily?
And when that can’t happen — because it’s life after all — you try so hard your tryer overheats leaving you stranded along the road of life, seeking comfort in any list of emotional numbing agents. Agents that don’t have to be immoral. They just have to be effective.
I convinced myself that I needed to change the world because that was my call and my purpose… when all the while, my purpose… was little more… than to bare witness to the change… going in within me. My purpose was me. It always has been for my God and for my faith.
I was just to afraid to accept the invitation to that party.
So take it from me, make knowing yourself and loving yourself your purpose. Find yourself first. Then give yourself wholeheartedly to the world around you.
Find yourself. Love yourself.
I’m trying to, you can too.