Last weekend, Jason, the kids and I were invited to a neighbor's house for afternoon tea. (That's one thing I love about living here, by the way. It's not like high tea with porcelain cups, or anything. This is real life, after all! But I just like the whole idea of sitting down, having tea or coffee and snacks. Making time for conversation. Seems a little more civilized than popping a top on a Diet Coke, I guess.) Diet Coke--don't be offended. You know what we have together could never be taken away!
I've been getting to know this neighbor over the last several weeks because her daughters go to Ava's new school, and her younger daughter has just started kindergarten as well. They are a really nice family, easy to talk to, down to earth--and this was the first time we had all hung out together. We spent a couple of hours there, chatting about kids, travel, school, living in Australia vs. the US. It was nice.
When we got home, Jason expressed a sentiment that we often feel here, given the line of work that we're in. He said, laughing a little, "I didn't want to ask what [neighbor's husband] does for a living, cause then he'd ask what we do and we'd have to do that whole thing."
What is "that whole thing"? Well, we've found that many times, people are put off by the fact that we are pastors. If not put off, then they just simply don't know what to say in response. Which makes those getting-to-know-you chats a bit awkward. Almost no one has ever been negative to us about it, but we've had plenty of people say something like, "Oh, how interesting...wow--[pointing]look over there!!" (Sound of retreating footsteps) You know that scene in Monty Python's The Holy Grail where they're like, "Run away! Run away!" It's a bit like that.
(I guess in this analogy, we would be the flying cow? Am I taking this too far?)
Okay, not that bad. I'm kidding about the running away part. But I'm telling you, with some people that I've been making a connection with, the information that we work with a church seems to be a real buzzkill for them.
And I can understand why. People have a whole range of mental associations and experiences about church, God, and people who are employed by either of the two. Some good associations, some neutral, some really bad. And to be honest, I get that. I have some of those associations, too! It's not my life goal to "fix" all of that. All I can do is live out an authentic relationship with God and try to be a blessing to the people whose lives intersect my own. (Incidentally, one of my favorite scriptures says that this is what God asks of us: to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him.)
But here's where Jason's hesitation that day with our neighbor comes from. We don't want to make people feel uncomfortable, nor do we want to be moved in their mind from the "Normal, Nice People" file to the "Religious People to Hold at Arms' Length" file. Because, lemme tell you, we are normal. I mean, NORMAL. Excessively normal. Well, if you've read any of this blog, you've figured that out! Recently, after telling someone I was a pastor, we were chatting and she said something sucked. Then she kind of whispered to herself, "Ooo--I shouldn't say that." And I'm thinking, Honey, if you only knew me better!
And here's the thing. Once we get over that initial getting-to-know-you-hump, people know that about us. We have lots of great friends here who don't, I hope, see us in a different or negative light because we're pastors. At some point, no matter what label you apply to yourself or others, you get to know each other well enough to just become people. Friends. Y'know?
Now, I can just sense it. I can feel it through the inter-tubes. Some of my Christian friends may be reading this and gasping, "What?? Are you ashamed of what you do? Are you ashamed to believe in God??" Now y'all, don't get your panties in a wad. We are not embarrassed to be pastors, nor are we ashamed to believe in and love God. It's a core part of who we are and our lives have been expanded beyond our own imaginings as a result. Woohoo, go ministry! Three cheers for God!
That said, those kind of awkward conversations are a regular part of our lives here. When I started this blog, my sister Becky said she wanted some of it to be about how ministry intersects with my life as a mother and a girl living in these here parts. So, there's a slice for ya, Beck.
So here's what I wanna know from y'all. Jason and I joke sometimes about creative answers we can give to that "So what do you do?" question. "I'm a life coach." "We run weekly discussion groups about, uh, issues and stuff." "We drive an ice cream truck." (Okay, I made that one up. But it would be awesome.) Gimme some creative and funny things we can say as alternatives to "We're pastors" or "We work with a church."
But it's okay if you don't want to. I don't wanna make anyone feel awkward.