if you’re in ministry of any kind, you know what it’s like to tell people that you work in a church. suddenly they are a little more conscious of the language they’re using and they begin to apologize for the things they mentioned prior to finding out what i do with my life. happens all the time, but airplanes and hair salons are the true jackpot.
just this week i was getting my haircut (see above), and the woman cutting it was trash talking some of her fellow employees under her breath to me. every time I get a haircut it eventually gets brought up that i’m a youth pastor, so i was savoring these moments of “real” conversation before the facade took over.
finally she asked me, “so, did you just get off work?” (it was around 5:30pm).
i said, “actually, no, monday is my day off.”
she was confused and pressed, “what kind of a job gives mondays off?”
and i knew the time had come and i had to let the cat out of the bag, “oh, i’m a youth pastor.”
she gulped, and replied, “oooooohhhh, well that’s great, i bet that is so rewarding. good for you.” she stumbled a bit over her next few sentences as she attempted to simultaneously affirm my career path and subtly mention how important youth and religion and God are to both her and society. she asked, “so did you have to go to school to do that?”
i told her i’ve got a bachelors degree from kstate (go cats), and that i’m going to seminary in the fall*.
* – this fall, i am entering seminary. i got a scholarship to central baptist theological seminary to be apart of their CREATE cohort program. technically, my first class is next wednesday, but since i have to read 4 books and write 3 papers before my first class, i have basically already begun.
then she asked me a great question. she didn’t mean for it to be a great question, but it’s the same question i’ve received dozens of time this summer as i updated various people on my life. the question is this…
“so what will you be when you’re finished?”
the question these people are actually asking is, “what will your master’s degree be in when you are done with school?”, and i know they’re meaning to ask that, so usually I just say, “I’ll have a masters of divinity.” but sometimes that answer is even more confusing – a master of WHAT!? I don’t even know what that means – so this go around I went with an alternative answer…
“hopefully, i’ll be a better youth pastor.”
which is the absolute truth. i don’t care about the degree or the title or any of that business. in fact, i’m not totally certain what my title will be when i graduate…Reverend APC? APC, MDiv? Master Cooper? whatevs, they all make me sound old and lame and someone i wouldn’t want to really hang out with. i hope my professors all ask me to call them by their first name and not “Dr. Fillintheblank”. that just makes me feel weird. it creates an us-and-them mentality…as if reverends or pastors or doctors aren’t just broken icons of God’s image too. cause that’s what i am. and this degree won’t change that one bit.
but anyway. you can pray for me as i enter into this next busy phase of life. i’ve never been a good student. i’m lazy and unmotivated most of the time. but I’ve also never gone to school because i wanted to go to school. i just went because society said i should. hopefully that changes my work ethic and excitement level. i told the cbts professors that about me back in june during my interviews and they still gave me a full-ride. so either they’re just throwing money around at whoever will apply for this scholarship, or they actually believe that i can do it. i pray it’s the latter and i pray they’re right.
toward the end of my conversation with my hairstylist (read: great clips employee) as i was signing my credit card receipt, she said, “honey, i know we don’t really know each other, but i think you’re going to do great.”
i smiled and said, “thanks, i really appreciate that.” maybe she was just being nice. maybe she was just hoping i’d add another dollar to her tip (which I did), but regardless, I felt pastored by this woman who only minutes ago had been ragging on her co-workers. it felt like a role reversal of sorts. in fact, it felt like an encounter with Jesus.
and i think that’s my point here. you and i and that woman at great clips and your neighbor and my friend and your mom are all created in God’s image, and can all look an awful lot like Jesus from time to time.
so…seminary or no seminary, pastor or not, i just want to act more like Jesus as i disciple the students in my life. that’s all.