It’s funny how lately I’ve been having great conversations in the unlikeliest of settings lately. Conversations about leadership, ministry, mission and the church….all stuff I love talking about. It’s what I’m about to go do (hopefully, if there’s a church out there that wants me!), and honestly, it gets me fired up.
I’ve also been doing things out of character for me….like attending a dinner for those who donate to the seminary’s scholarship fund. Let’s just say I’m not a big fan of the usual conversation and “wisdom” that gets passed at events like that. But this time was a little different, because I got a great dose of wisdom from a really wise woman.
This lady is in her 70’s, and we had a lot of connecting points between our lives. Her father and brother were Naval Academy graduates like myself, and her husband was a pastor, as is her son now. So needless to say we hit it off, and she had so many good things to say and so many good questions, both about life and the church. But the best words were when she recalled something that the pastor at her husband’s ordination ceremony said.
“Remember, first you’re a man [human being], next you’re a Christian, and then after those things, a pastor.”
One of the things that has always bothered me through seminary is the ability some people have to over spiritualize things. They make bigger theological deals out of things that for the most part, are not matters of doctrine, confession, theology or bringing religious language into the conversation. They do this, and all the while forget about one basic thing: we’re all human.
I wonder sometimes, actually most days, if God/Jesus is more concerned with us being good human beings toward each other, preserving the dignity of another, and living in ways that promote rather than destroy life. And as I think over my life, that’s not something I’ve learned from a book, ever. It’s something I’ve learned from my dad, my grandpa; from getting my ass handed to me, and sticking my foot in my mouth; and from moments of joy and triumph too.
I think faith reminds us that we’re never really that good, but we’re never really that horrible either. We’re human….we fall down, get dirty, we screw it up. But faith reminds us that it’s always an option to get back up and keep moving. That’s simply what it means to have character, and while it is a theological thing, it is first and foremost a human thing. And that makes sense to me, because God is in the business of being in relationship with human beings, not notions and labels, ideologies and doctrine that are largely therapeutic in nature and feed the ego.
So, I pass this little bit of wisdom on to you….something to ponder on what is turning out to be a pretty nice spring day.