Friends

(UPDATE: Things are a changing, thus the new blog and such.  Like other posts, this is still a good piece of writing – or at least as good as I’m capable of – but situations change and it’s not as relevant as it used to be.  I also took a small part out; just didn’t seem to be necessary, even if I do still agree with it. – RB)

Real talk time.  I told myself, when I started this blog, that I had to be honest and frank when I wrote.  Holding back was counter-productive and if I want this to help someone else – if I want someone to feel or learn something – then I need to give them everything they need, not just the things that I am comfortable sharing.

No specifics – not worth it or even helpful – but I have found myself in a situation where I no long feel like I am friends with a bunch of people I have been friends with for a couple of years.  We are still friendly acquaintance, we still work together, we still laugh, but some childish drama placed a wedge between us.  I am kind of alone out here – I’m not a member of the Presbytery I’m serving because I’m not really officially serving and the ordination process is what it is – and I haven’t found a plethora of friends.  Support, clergy discussions, direction, that all I have, but I found having a group of friends where being a pastor wasn’t defining of our friendship relaxing and uplifting, and I feel like I lost that.

I wasn’t sure how to process what I was thinking about, but this idea popped into my head: I should write out what it means to be a friend to a pastor.  I’ve seen it before, and my version will probably be inadequate, but this is where I’m at.

So, here’s how to be a friend to a pastor:


1. If you are friends with a pastor, they aren’t judging you.

Stop trying to be perfect around your friend because they are a pastor.  Treat them like a friend.  They don’t want to be your pastor; they want to be your friend.  They are not looking for your sins to write down in their register to talk to God about.  They simply need a give-and-take relationship.

And they chose to be your friend.  If you drink beer, that probably influenced their decision to be your friend.  If you smoke pot, that might have influenced their decision to be your friend.  If you are a thrice-divorced degenerate, that probably influenced their decision to be your friend.  Given all of these things, they want to be your friend.

Friends don’t judge friends, which leads right into…

2. If you are friends with a pastor, they don’t want to judge you.

I don’t spend my day telling myself to not judge.  I don’t struggle with wanting to see you for all your faults and making mental judgements of your soul.  I’ve never once saw someone sinning and thought, “My, it would feel good to mentally condemn that person to Hell, but the Bible tells me not to!”

I don’t want to judge you.  I know that we are all sinful, and I’ve got plenty of sins on my own heart that deserve me being condemned.  Only self-righteous jerks take pleasure in judging and building themselves up by tearing others down; that’s just as true in the Christian world as it is in the secular.

3. If you are friends with a pastor, remember that being pastor is their job.

Doctors, nurses, computer techs, mechanics, chefs, beauticians, and almost any other job that serves people understand this.  No, we don’t have a time clock that we punch, and that emergency phone call may force us to run out of the building like it’s on fire, but when I’m around you, I’m not working.  I’m not looking for ways to proselytize to you, I’m not going to try to convert you, I’m not going to pull out a Bible in the middle of a beer and pull the whole “Relevant and Relatable Pastor” spiel.

I want to drink beer and talk about how horrible the Vikings game was and commiserate about how much I hate Wings even though I love the Beatles and that the Rolling Stones are just awful in my mind.  I don’t want to pastor to you any more than you want to do your job for me while we drink beer.  I just want to be your friend.

4. If you are friends with a pastor, remember that they are always faithful.

I’ve been friends with a multitude of atheists in my life, and some of them have been my best friends.  I had at least one atheist stand up for me at my wedding.  Maybe I just don’t make friends easily enough, but some of the best people I have met don’t believe in God.

But I don’t pretend to have a weak faith when I am around them for their sake.*  My wedding revolved around God, not around us.  I pray frequently.  I bow my head when we film games at the Catholic high school.  I have a relationship with God no matter where I am.

This has been a struggle with previous friendships.  I don’t want to try to convert you – at least not while I’m relaxing on your couch or on a bar stool – but I will continue to be a Christian while I relax.  I make choices for myself as a Christian, and I will do or not do things because of that, but I’m not judging you because of my choices and I’m not doing these things as an example of what I think you should do.  I’m doing them because of my relationship with God, not my relationship with you.

5. If you are friends with a pastor, please relax around them.

I need to relax.  I’m on call always, my sermon is never out of my mind, there is always something that I could be doing, the work is never done.  I need to relax.

I won’t relax if you are constantly tense around me.  I need a friend, I need a two-way relationship, I need a beer buddy, and you being nervous to relax around me is not going to help me with any of those things.

Remember everything above, and then chill out.


Hopefully this isn’t just rambling.  Hopefully tomorrow when I read this again, I don’t shriek in horror at what I put out there.  Hopefully reconciliation is possible.

To friendship,

– Robby

* I did that once with a girl I was dating.  Failed miserably.

Who am I?

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,

– Robby