Today is my last day in the office for a while. Thirteen years ago, when I first came to this church, I began taking a couple of weeks of vacation and then two weeks of study time. This means I am basically away for four weeks. It has become an annual time to re-group and then start over again. I am thankful to be able to do this.
Yesterday, I came across a quote that bothered me. The quote is supposed to be from Ralph Waldo Emerson regarding a sermon he heard on one occasion. He says the following regarding the minister who preached that sermon:
He had lived in vain. He had no word intimating that he had laughed or wept, was married or in love, had been commended, or cheated or chagrined. If he had ever lived and acted, we were none the wiser for it. The capital secret of his profession, mainly, to convert life into truth, he had not learned.
Somehow, he had failed to connect his words with who he was as a human being. Somehow, this minister had failed to connect real life with God.
Yesterday, I got a haircut from a person I had never met before. The person who normally cuts my hair is out of town. Anyway, I sat down in the chair and the small talk began. She was twenty-six years old and planned to return to college someday. Then she asked, "Well what do you do?" I told her.
Ignoring the silence, I began asking her questions about the town where she was from. After a few moments, she seemed to forget that uncomfortable moment and the awkwardness was gone.
I thought about her later. What is it like to be her? What is it like to cut hair all day? What is it like to be twenty-six, single, and living in 2006? What is it like to then have a guy tell you he is a minister? Why was there a moment of awkward silence?
Could it be past experience? Could it be the stereotypes? Could it be the dis-connection with real life that one sometimes feels when talking with people in ministry? Could it be that she had seen people in this role who just seemed unreal? Now I suppose if you were in "church" every Sunday, that might help to ease the awkwardness. At least you can trade some information back and forth. "Yea, we go to Forest Park Community Church..." Maybe. But--not necessarily.
Meanwhile, Jesus had a way of being who he was before normal, everyday human beings. People seemed to be comfortable being with him. Ok--not everyone was comfortable. Some people, especially the religious leaders (like me), were not comfortable.
I know there are some minister types who try too hard to appear "normal." It is sort of like the dad or mom who is trying a bit too hard to communicate to their teenager's friends that they are aware of their world. A mom can try to dress like a seventeen-year-old but don't think that is necessarily going to impress the seventeen-year-olds. Dad may use the language of a teenager but that doesn't necessarily impress.
One can try so hard to appear a certain way that it becomes awkward. The person comes across as almost silly. I've seen a few ministers do this. They try too hard to be something or create a certain impression. And it is awkward.
What is more important is that we simply be who we are. Does that make sense? Just be genuine.
- We really don't need more people who are trying to create impressions.
- We really don't need more people who are trying to appear relevant.
- We really don't need more people who relate to others because they have agendas.
- We really don't need more moms and dads who are trying to appear a certain way before their children's friends.
- We really don't need more ministers who are trying too hard to convince people they are not like other people or other ministers.
No, we need more people who will just be genuine.
Give me a person who will just be real and genuine. I see that in Jesus. I see that in the men and women who have made a great impact on my own life. A person who is genuine is just being authentic. That is a lot more attractive than trying too hard to create an impression.