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Monday, July 3, 2017

Am I Your Pastor?

I’m not 100% sure where to begin this post, because the truth is I am exhausted (as denoted in my post, this morning, at These Ordinary Days), and I am vulnerable (as denoted all over the place—in writing, in real life, in spontaneous episodes of tearing up, recorded on podcasts… just… everywhere…).

My feelings were a little hurt the other day when I couldn’t wear a green scarf with any kind of integrity intact.  It’s pretty hard to be a woman with both an M.A. and an M. Div. in theology; who waited to start the formal ordination process, because I wanted to give adequate time to the educational requirements while raising a family; who writes and edits theological works; who counsels and encourages other women who struggle with their callings; who really loves scarves a whole lot… and to realize (kind of brutally) that your tribe doesn’t consider you a pastor… or, at least not a pastor ‘enough’…

There’s that stupid word again.

Now, thankfully… right in the midst of this there was a denominational leader who was all like, “This isn’t a red flag, L.  You’re OK.  Just start the process.  And come teach and stuff” (super great paraphrase, mine).  Then we smiled, and I went on feeling OK in my orange paisley pants, without my green scarf.

But I say all of this not to expose my bitterness (I’m actually not bitter… I made choices based on what I could handle at any given moment, sometimes I absolutely stretched that to the max, and it really is OK that my formal process is just going to take a little more time than others) and not even to express my gratitude (although, thankful was definitely the word of the hour after that conversation).  Everything I have just written is a preface to what I’ve felt in the ensuing week (and more often than I’d like to admit).

I never set out to be a pastor.  Seriously, who does?  It still surprises me when I walk into ERs or nursing homes or salons or down grocery aisles or sit down to have coffee and someone introduces me to another human being by saying, “This is L.  She’s my pastor.” 

Interestingly, this is almost always followed by some ironic disclaimer such as, “You can go ahead and say whatever you need to say in front of her,” and I laugh (really hard, on the inside), because I know it’s coming.  People say stuff to me that I never would have imagined anyone would be willing to share with a pastor!  But I love that they do.

So I had this moment where one of my people was hospitalized last week, and I actually couldn’t get to him, because this bilocational life is for the birds, but my emotions were telling.  He’s mine.  I’m his pastor.  I immediately worried that some other pastor who doesn’t know or care about his story would step in and be stupid or something.  How is this even a concern?  Well, it’s because I have often been a pastor to the pastorless… to the people on the margins who don’t quite fit the church mold.  In many ways, my not-enough-ness has made me exactly the kind of pastor they need.  Go figure.  We gravitate toward people who look like us.

So, speaking of birds, I thought of the children’s story, Are You My Mother, as this post was forming in my mind.  If you are unfamiliar with it, please take the time to watch this 8 minute video:      

 As the baby bird searches for his mother, the responses are telling:

“It did not say a thing…” (Isolation)

“No…” (Exclusion)

“I am not your mother, I am a dog.” (Duh… don’t you know anything, baby bird… uh… he’s a baby!)

“How could I be your mother?” (Do you really want to know?) 

Poor baby bird begins to doubt whether or not he has a mother, at all…

He is so desperate he tries to self-identify as a boat… as a plane… a ‘snort’ (backhoe)…  Well, that’s just crazy and pitiful!

It’s not until the baby bird arrives home that he finds his mother, and the interesting question she asks is, “Do you know who I am?”

Of course the baby bird does; but before he identifies her, he speaks to all of the things she is not (not a cat, not a hen, not a dog, not a cow, not a car, not a boat, not a plane, not a snort…)

Sometimes I think we have to figure out who we’re not before we ever figure out who we are, and it can be a heck of a journey…  It can take a really long time…

I’m a pastor, and I might even be yours—formal process or not, green scarf or not, it’s coming.  The people who will one day give the green light and lay their hands on my head to make it official already know this.  We’re all just waiting in eager expectation, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life; it’s that I’d better take a moment to rest when it seems like nothing is happening, because once it breaks loose I’ll have to hit the ground running, and there’s no telling when another respite will follow.

And… marking time…


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