Seeking our Authentic Self

When I was in seminary, part of the curriculum for one of my worship classes was to practice conducting baptisms, weddings, and funerals. (This wasn’t the most academically rigorous class and probably why I waited till my final semester to take it.) For each type of service, the professor showed us exactly what to do, down to where to place our hands or how to hold a baby (You wouldn’t believe how much time we spent talking about how to take the wedding rings from the bridesmaids and groomsmen). Then each person in the class was to stand up and pretend to conduct a wedding or lead communion and we were evaluated. Again, it wasn’t a hard class but looking back it’s been one of the most useful.

Whenever the professor would show us how to conduct the services, he would put on a stole (the long thin vestment that pastors wear around their necks). Each time he put it on, he would kiss the nape of the stole. After he did this several times, one student asked why he kissed it. He said, “I do it every time I put on a stole to remind me that when I wear this I am different and that more is expected of me.”

When he said that it didn’t sit right with me. I thought, “Isn’t the goal to be the same person where ever we are?” Ministry is a life calling, not a job or a task and so my whole life should reflect that. Shouldn’t I be the same person whether I’m behind the pulpit or the altar or at a dinner part or in traffic? Instead of a role to be played, shouldn’t pastor be an identity that is lived.

I’ve reflected on this a lot over the years. I’ve since come to realize that my professor was speaking about the general calling of minister as “set apart” and that his calling to conduct these most important acts of worship is different than other people’s calling. Nevertheless, I’ve tried to hold on to the indignation I felt that day of  the consistency of my identity being so important in every aspect of my life. I am not called to act one way when I’m leading worship and another with my family and another getting a drink with a friend. I’m called to the most authentic expression of David, child of God, as I can be no matter what.

But I will admit, I get this wrong a lot. In my work, I like for people to think I have it all together, so I fall prey to the “fake it till you make it” syndrome. I often hide my vulnerabilities from my children.  Way more than I want to admit, I forget my value of grace and find myself being judgmentally critical of others or using humor at their expense. Like anyone, you could say I take on different identities in the various “bricks” of my life.

Yet, when see God’s grace as the mortar between the bricks, all the disjointed parts of our lives come together. We begin to see that no matter where we are or what the circumstance of our life are, it is all held together by something greater than us. If we discover how we are connected to God at work, or at home, or at dinner with friends, or at a political rally, or on vacation, we will find our true selves being reflected in all of those places. A brick and mortar life is seeking our authentic self, formed by God’s grace.

David Freeman

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