Thursday, March 4, 2010

Persons of the Cloth: Evening the Score

Being Human Bag
One of my favorite comments is, "Well, Beggar, you're not like any minister I've ever met before." It's important to emphasize the second contraction in that statement, not only out of respect for today being National Grammar Day, but because that's how they say it. A little incredulous, they mimic Mr. Spock arching an eyebrow, and look at me a little sidelong, as though they're not sure whether I'm lying about my credentials.

My first inclination is to ask what kind of ministers they have met previously since you'd like to know the competition. Usually, it's either been one who was dismissive of evolution, inclined toward fundamentalism, or didn't drink, smoke, chew, or go with girls who do (spoken in jest out West) and criticized anyone who did. From that company, I'm delighted to be distinguished. Not that there's anything wrong with holding those views -- it's a free country -- but they aren't mine and if I'm going to be blamed for something, I'd like it to be true of me and not someone else.

Somewhere along the line, the idea came about (propagated mostly by ministers themselves, I'm guessing) that being a Person of the Cloth meant one shouldn't be human. The irony of it is, the model, at least in my tradition, was so incredibly human it was possible to accuse him of drinking, partying, and hanging with prostitutes and tax collectors (the ultimate low-life in those days). So, why didn't he change his ways? Basically, it was because those people were the ones most aware of their imperfections.

If one becomes a minister because they're "holy" and therefore, predisposed to a life of self-denial, I'm in deep trouble. For me, it resulted from a sense of calling, not at all dissimilar to the one we talk about in medical school. It's the kind of thing you feel like you're supposed to do even though you can't really explain why. You may have to make sacrifices to do it well, but the fulfillment you gain makes it worthwhile. It can evolve, as well, as it has in my case, leading me to medical school (see 1/16/10).

As time has gone along, I've become more aware that being a minister means being a ministering person in the larger context of life rather than being employed in a church, but it still doesn't negate my humanity. The ministry isn't about me and it's sure not about trying to make people into my image. It's about being available to people and willing to help, if and where you can. I'm bringing this up today because it occurred to me, of all the times I've mentioned it, I've never explained why I became a minister and that just didn't seem fair. I guess you could say I'm trying to even the score -- hope I done good (chuckle).

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