I had just finished a presentation for the staff at a Senior Living Community, when one of the attendees came up to me and said, “You know, you could be a pastor.”
I was flattered by her words, and more than a little surprised. No one’s ever said anything like that before. People have told me they were inspired or motivated by my programs, or that I gave them a new way of thinking or looking at things. Some later told me of changes they made in their lives after hearing me speak, and of specific achievements they’ve had as a result.
I’m always grateful to hear I’ve made a positive difference in someone’s life, but that’s a whole different thing than being a pastor—although now that I think about it, it’s part of what pastors do, too. Still…
I’ve worked with a number of pastors in different churches, and of different denominations, both here and in Uganda. But when I hear the word “pastor,” my first thought is always of the priest who is the head of my parish. That’s how I grew up, and it’s where my mind automatically goes. Since women can’t be priests, being a pastor is something I’ve never even thought about in relation to myself, which is part of what made the young woman’s comment last week so unexpected.
Now that I think about it, though, I realize that many of my thoughts about job titles and descriptions are based on limited or partial knowledge and beliefs. Say the word “teacher,” and I picture someone standing in front of a classroom, speaking to a roomful of students. The word “scientist” makes me think of someone in a white lab coat, doing the kind of research and experiments I remember from chemistry class.
These aren’t inaccurate, necessarily, they just don’t tell the whole picture. And they don’t describe all teachers or scientists. Or pastors.
When I started college, I was a med tech major, but it didn’t take long for me to realize what a mistake that was. I switched my major to English and added a minor in Journalism, even though I didn’t want to be a teacher or reporter. At the time, I thought those were the only career choices for those areas of study, but some inner wisdom pushed me in that direction anyway. Today, in hindsight, I can see that teaching and writing are important parts of what I do and who I am, even though I don’t describe myself—or think of myself—as a teacher or a journalist.
Maybe it’s the same for pastoring. I just read a “job description” that referred to it as building community by nurturing the relationships and long-term spiritual growth of a group. That’s actually what I was doing during my presentation last week, and what I do in much of my writing and speaking in general.
My program last week, by the way, was about helping people see gifts in themselves that they don’t even recognize. The last thing I expected was for one of them to do the same for me.
The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on May 19, 2016.
©Betty Liedtke, 2016
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