I am turning 40 years old this month and it will also be my 15th wedding anniversary. It is a big month. 15 years ago, on my 25th birthday, I also graduated seminary. I’ll be 40 now, a new decade and a new box to check on forms. I’m no longer a young clergy. I’m, I guess what you call, middle-aged clergy? Since I am on the downhill sprint of my second decade of ministry, I have been reflecting on my journey so far. That is what people in middle age do, right? We reflect on where we have come from and where we are. It is a natural piece of adulthood.
Now you have to understand, I was dragged into this whole preaching thing. I would much rather help with worship anywhere else than behind the pulpit on Sunday. Speaking in front of people was and still is a fear of mine. It is a heart pounding, sweat inducing fear. It happens every Sunday. I have learned though that the fear is rooted in embarrassment and lack of confidence. I grew to know that preaching, this task, and art form, was something I could do, but it wasn’t my choice.
These past 15 years have taught me that life in ministry is all about looking past people’s expectations. When I meet people and they find out what I do, they assume I am like the pastor they know. I am just like their brother who is the pastor of a Free Will Baptist Church out in the country. I’m just like that Catholic Priest who made life hell for them in Catholic School. I must be outgoing and wanting to be the life of the party just like the previous minister of the church. When I meet people they heap onto my shoulders the expectations of their experience with clergy.
I am a manuscript preacher and I need my notes every Sunday. Yet, some say I should step away from the pulpit because that is what the TV preachers do. I’m an introvert and so after two hours of fellowship at a wedding reception, I’m done. Yet, some wonder why I would rather sit back and not work the crowd like the previous pastor. There is a lot I don’t do like other people because this is the number one lesson I have learned over these 15 years of ministry, I can only be me.
I too had an expectation of what a great preacher looked like and it looked like those famous preachers. Those outgoing, extroverted, extremely scholarly, and quick thinking preachers who were everything I wasn’t. I learned that I was placing unrealistic expectations upon myself. What I have come to realize is that I can only be me. God’s breath resides in my soul. Preaching isn’t my choice it is my calling. God chose me to be a mouthpiece to the people of the world. God called me…me. ME!
Don’t miss interpret. I push myself. I attempt to grow in my preaching, leadership, and spirituality. I am constantly looking into different ways to do things or pushing my comfort zone. However, I have also learned that I have to do it my way. The more I learn about how God created me, the better I have gotten on being me.
I understand my strengths and weaknesses better now then I did 15 years ago. I know when to ask for help, when to say “I’ll take care of it,” and more importantly when to say, “No.” I am more comfortable in who I am and who God has created me to be than I ever have before.
My wisdom to pass down to those who are 25 and are just starting a career of any kind is to get to know who you are. Learn who and how God created you. Don’t be afraid to be who you are but also don’t let that be an excuse to keep you where you are. When you are honest and authentically yourself you let the light of Christ shine through you because that is the divine spark illuminating the life God has called you to.
Go and be you, the God created and inspired you.
This post is my article as a guest contributor on James Burrough’s website, jlburroughsiii.com.