I wrote this post a little under a year ago. It was angry and defiant. It was self assured. It was maybe a little arrogant. Sure, it looks contrite on the surface. I’m good at that. It looks like I’m serving my time with humility. I’m taking my lumps. I get knocked down, but I get up again! (you’re welcome for the ear worm!) It’s strong. It’s resolute…
…it’s missing the point. Almost a year removed from this post, I wonder how much “better” I am. Have I learned my lesson? Am I able to avoid the pitfalls that ended my ministry in the first place? I don’t know that I’m better. In some ways, I feel worse.
I was reminded in a very stern way a few weeks back that being a pastor is a privilege. My “call” or my sense of it does not entitle me to the work. It does not entitle me to lead a congregation. It does not entitle me to any of the rights and privileges that come along with being in this incredibly unique profession.
And so I’m left sitting with the question… am I still a pastor?
I’ve been taking Lent to do some much needed self affirmation. It has been good for me. I can affirm today that I have pastoral gifts. I’m an excellent speaker and communicator. I am a good listener. I connect with people easily. I’m good at operating in complex systems. I love people, even though they drain me. I want to see good done in the world. Those are super qualities in a pastor. I’m also wildly insecure. Because I’m a good communicator and compassionate, I can be manipulative. My ego needs fed regularly. I sometimes have used the pulpit as my therapist. I can just as easily be a curse to a congregation as a cure.
I had my chance to be a pastor. Chances, actually, and I blew them. I blew it once because I felt I was above having to do two jobs. I blew it a second time for not seeing my task through to the end. I blew it a third time by not taking myself out of the role when I was clearly in no position to serve. My ego. My image. My pride. All of them came before the people I was supposedly serving.
There are other ways that I can use my gifts. I like to write. I’m enjoying life as a community organizer. It seems like a good fit for my skills and it’s a way that I can still help churches without leading them. I was in the state capitol last night. I thought about lobbying. I thought about how my current work could easily parlay into political advocacy. I could be a consultant. That seems to be what people do when they can’t do the thing they want to do.
I’ve had a lot of hard conversations lately and I’m taking them to heart. I’m not giving up on my call. I am rethinking how I might live it out. Being a pastor is a privilege, one that I abused. I can’t live that down. I can’t escape it. Having a call doesn’t give me the right to be toxic in a place again. Maybe I can’t handle my call right now.
Of course, this all leads me back to the drawing board. Who am I?