Sunday, April 7, 2013

I Am a...

Last summer a young minister of the gospel between pastoral charges wrote a thoughtful blog post in which he wondered where he would be if for some reason the Lord closed the door to his ministry in a professional capacity.  He concluded by asking 
Is it ok, that my identity is so deeply rooted in my ministry? What would I do, if I was not a pastor anymore? What if, for some unknown reason, God decided to take it away from me? What kind of Christian would I be then? What kind of person would I be then? Who would I be?
I responded in the comments section with a rather long but heartfelt analysis of his questions.  For some reason, I feel impelled to share my response here on String Too Short to Tie.  It is redacted only to the extent that I removed the closing paragraph which was personal in nature.  I said 

So, who would you be if God removed the opportunity to minister in a professional capacity? First of all, if God does that, He will provide something that will utilize your skills in an even more productive way. Believe it. Secondly, you will follow the leading and will of God, even if that means the unknown, and seemingly endless hours in prayer. And finally, you will still be the man that God has created you to be, but your job may change.
A typical ice-breaker when we meet someone new to us is “What do you do?” I’m guessing, based on a life-time of observation, that not one in forty answers the question. Instead, they will reply, “I am a teacher,”: or “I am a minister of the gospel,” or “I am an accountant,” and so on, thereby defining themselves by what they do. I think this is one of the great tragedies of our day, for people do literally define themselves by their occupation, or their career, and thus never internalize, then act out their potential. There is nothing wrong with a career, or an occupation, nor is it sinful to take pride in what one does. But it is truly limiting the spirit when we define ourselves in such narrow terms.
Rather, you might say “I am a child of the living God, joint-heir with my Elder Brother, Jesus, who is the Christ. I am a man who is afflicted with weaknesses, but nevertheless a man of great strength; a man of hopes, and dreams, and desires. I am a son, a husband, a father, a functioning and useful member of the society in which God has granted me a place.”
So this is not what the stranger expects when he asks. He expects to hear, “I am a …(insert job title.)” There is nothing wrong with answering the question, by the way, and in a social situation it will probably make everyone, including one’s self more comfortable. But answer it honestly, don’t reinforce the proclivity to define yourself by your job.
I have been retired 22 years. I feel this issue strongly, for while I had the best job in the world, had I defined myself by my job, I would now be a nothing, would I not? So the next question people ask after I tell them I am retired is “What do you do with yourself?” as though they cannot possibly imagine someone being able to maintain an interest in life when his “I am job” definition no longer applies.
One hopes, given the above, that in the scenario you present, the answers to your other questions would be: the same kind of Christian, the same kind of person, the same Person, you are right now. You’d just be used of God in a different way.
Keep the faith. 


Secondary Roads said...

I love your response to the young man. My personal life experience confirms the wisdom and insight of your words to him.

Shelly said...

This is wonderful!

vanilla said...

Chuck, one always appreciates validation.

Shelly, I simply believe it important that we don't lose sight of who we really are.

Sharkbytes said...

Excellent answer. I have never had any particular career that defined me, but I do tend to answer that way.

vanilla said...

Shark, thank you. I believe the life you live defines you, so you may answer as you see fit. Like you need my permission.