Monday, May 28, 2007

I lose...


Here’s one of the things I’ve been wondering about…
You know after 15 + years of doing the same thing – your identity gets tied into that very thing you’ve been doing. Especially, if like me, you’re a pragmatist. By that I mean that when people yammer on about “being” versus “doing” you really don’t understand what they are talking about. And it’s not like you aren’t a thinker – that is that thoughts travel through your consciousness – it’s that thinking and ‘being’ is so interwoven with doing that you are not quite sure where one begins and the other ends. And I am perfectly aware that I am much more than just a collection of events, tasks, and accomplishments. But it is that the focus of my life has really been about doing what I can do well. Well, most of the time. And so the real identity of a person – this person – cannot be differentiated from the tasks performed no matter how pathetically.
So what I am – is in no small way what I do. And get paid to do. There is a validation in that – getting paid. It’s like this, people say “You are a crazy guy that seems to connect well with youth – we’ll pay you to do it”. And if I say, “Okay.” – Its not that I have just said yes to hanging out with kids – I have earned the whole ‘crazy’ identity as well. And it’s not like its entrapment – no far from it. It has been and will always be a clean clear freedom that I have lived these last 15 years. But here it is: I am a youth pastor – that is as much who I am as what I do. It is as much who I want/wanted to be as what I feel responsible for as my duty in this world.
My spiritual journey is tied intrinsically to all of this. I would not be who I am in every aspect if it were not for my position. And this is how it should be I believe. I am not sure how it is possible to compartmentalize your life so much that you could have a spiritual journey that was somehow detached or unfamiliar to your vocation. It borders on schizophrenia to suggest this.
One of the blessings of the last four years of my life has been the intensifying of my spiritual journey. I feel like I know God better and because of that I am amazed at His mysterious grandeur. I feel my life has fallen more in step with the natural rhythms of God’s design for humans. And I am more convinced than ever that His grace is unparalleled beauty. But…
I wonder how my spiritual journey will change as my vocation changes. I wonder how I will live and think differently when my spiritual journey no longer hangs on some of the familiar rhythms of ministry. I wonder what unfamiliar territory I will walk though before I recognize the creator in it. I wonder how I will be reminded of the power of redemption when I cease to see it through the changed lives of young people struggling through unimagined pain and hurt. What will I lose? What will I gain in this new venture? It’s hard to say.
It is becoming clear though that as I say goodbye to youth ministry (for now) I also say goodbye to a way of knowing God. Quite frankly that scares me and excites me all at once.

2 comments:

Mark said...

I can identify with much of what you speak about. I find that most youth pastors (including myself) went through a major identity crisis after "graduating" from youth ministry (in my case going back to school). It seems that we get a lot of our self-worth from what we do and when that is given up/taken away we develop some angst. Big changes always affect us in big ways. If I'm not a youth pastor then what am I? The biggest thing I noted when one is involved in intense ministry for 40 hours a week for several years and then one goes down to almost no ministry, it can be traumatic for you spiritually. Paul says "keep your spiritual zeal serving the Lord." I think that much of our passion for God comes from ministering to others (in some way) so the best way to manage the transition is not to take a break from ministry completely (which is tempting) but to choose to find new ways to minister during the transition. That's what I wish I had done. Excellent post and good luck with your future!
-Mark

Outgoing... said...

thanks Mark
I think your "find new ways to minister" is excellent perspective. It has been often difficult for me to understand why people are so non-chalant toward ministry involvement. I know that the answer is complex but there clearly is a correlation btwn involvement and spiritual vitality. And let me be clear that involvement may not be in the church or its programs.
Personally, I am looking forward to the 'new duties' (to quote Nacho Libre) but I am recognizing areas of spiritual familiarity that will be altered - significantly.
At times in seminars, conferences, and books I have heard/read the admonission to "feed your forgatten soul". The implication has been that somehow there is a disconnect between your ministry life and your spiritual journey. I just can't imagine how this is possible or preferrable. Anyways...
Thanks for your encouragement