I ask myself this question more than the average bear, I suppose. I find myself wondering who it that I am from moment to moment. I stand in a pulpit and I’m a teacher, and a teacher of the Word none the less. I stand behind a camera and all of a sudden I’m back to a previous self that doesn’t understand how people blush at certain words and sound like I spent a considerable amount of time on a naval vessel. Put a beer in front of me and I’m somewhere in between. If I find myself behind a keyboard, all of a sudden I am forcing myself to be vulnerable. In a meeting, I’m a closed vault of sorts.
At any moment, I have to decide which me is going to come through. Actively decide. I have to choose what level of vulnerability, brashness, and that intangible but always known “sailor talk” is appropriate in every moment. I actually spend an inordinate about of time deciding if I need to go through and change every “hell” and “damn” I’ve put in this blog.
As much as I may want it to, it doesn’t make me unique. Every adult has to do that. Every person who ministers really has to do this. If you stand at a pulpit, you are hyper-vigilant about it. You have to decide how honest you are in the pulpit, on the street, and in the hospital room. Do you show a bit of vulnerability at the risk of authority? How do you balance that?
This has been weighing on me because I find myself wanting to be more honest and vulnerable from the pulpit. I’m not desiring to make it my therapy session or a session to air my dirty laundry, but I still feel like there is a certain amount of “faking it” in my sermons. I had a conversation with one of the ladies of the church after Sunday worship one week and we got to talking about my sermons and somehow it went to our imperfection. I will never forget her words:
…when you talk about the bad things you’ve done in your sermons, you aren’t that bad.
“…not that bad.” I have to chuckle because I know myself, and I know the whole history. I smile because I know there are weeks that my exegesis is paired with a decent sized glass of bourbon. I chuckle because I think about editing a sermon while South Park is on in the background. I shake my head because I think about the actual bad things I’ve done, and the things that I thought were really bad. And I’m torn because I know that those facts shared from the pulpit in a pastoral way would make me more accessible to some people hearing my teachings and yet would drive away other that hear because I cannot meet a certain standard of “piety”, even if my not meeting that standard is a conscious, thought-out choice.
Again, though, this doesn’t make me unique. If I lined up all of my pastor/preacher friends, I could similar conversations. Maybe they don’t want to talk about their whiskey and entertainment choices, but maybe there is a bad decision they made or a horribly difficult life situation that they have to hide while in the pulpit that would open up relationships because of the vulnerability it shows and it makes the preacher, the teacher “real”. The line of how vulnerable and “real” we are supposed to be while preaching, while teaching, and while interacting and providing care for those who we are charged with leading is not straight and changes in thickness, depending on the day, person, and situation. An act of vulnerability can be too vulnerable, just right, or not vulnerable enough and not change in the slightest.
It’s a battle and “game” that anyone in a caring profession – ministry, counseling, or any others – play out every day, and find the ways to land on that line as often as possible. Success in these fields requires it. Period.
And it is freaking draining. I’m not full-time in ministry at the moment, but even in the small bits of ministry that do come my way, I’m always torn. Combine that with being on a media crew that is essentially a polar opposite of my church family and wanting to be the best “me” I can be to feed the souls in both groups the best that I can because I am a Christian and that is my interpretation of the call of the gospel (Feeding All Souls In Love) and it is exhausting because I don’t know when I am the real me. After 27 years, 4 months, and 25 days, I don’t really know who I am.
… … …
Actually, yes I do. I know exactly who I am. I’m a God-worshiping beer drinker who cooks a bit too much, swears a bit too much, and loves as much as he can. That’s who I am. I think the reason I have to ask myself “Who am I?” constantly is because I don’t let myself be myself. Sometimes I can’t be myself – cracking opening a beer at the pulpit is unacceptable, I think – and sometimes I don’t think I should be myself but this short, overweight, beer-loving preacher who curses and loves and gets distracted so easily (from the start of this sentence to now I’ve followed 6 new blogs….) and worships Jesus as much as he can and maybe relies on the Holy Spirit a bit too much on Sundays and tries really hard to be a good husband but falls short sometimes and really just wants to be real and vulnerable.
And that conflicts with who I have to be to feed some souls, and matches right up with other souls I feed. And I want to feed them all.
So to respond to Ben Huberman’s prompt about our various “Me’s” colliding, I simply say, “Got 27 years, 4 months, and 25 days? Because my life is defined by various versions of myself colliding with the real me.”
Who am I? I am “Jesus, Beer, and My Tiny Kitchen” in human form; this blog is me in writing form. Only person me messes up a whole lot more in the kitchen and written me cures a whole lot less.
To honesty, vulnerability, and beer,