One political convention is thankfully over. One more to go. It seems politics creeps into everything these days. I was at a business leadership meet-up the other night. One of the men I knew was recounting his experience running for county commissioner. He was remarking that if it’s like that at such a low political level, he can’t even fathom what it’s like at the higher levels. That’s all that was needed for another man to interject how he’s already made up his mind about who he’s voting for and nothing is going to change it. He also let us know he refuses to even have a discussion with anyone. Got it. No one in that circle was even considering talking personal politics, much less try and change his mind.
I guess that’s one of the occupational blessings of being in the ministry. You learn very early on that you aren’t going to change anyone … much less save them. The U.S. military may have thought they could win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese during the Vietnam War (that phrase was used by the Pentagon long before it was used for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), but really, that’s not our place. God is in the change business and even then, God only works through those who want change in their lives in the first place. The little issue of free will insures willingness to change.
Another occupational blessing of being in the ministry is no one is listening to you anyway! Oh, they may file into the pews or chairs, but as soon as they hear something from the message they don’t like, they tune you out. You actually see them glaze over person by person. Humanity has an incredible gift for selective hearing (and memory). God is quite used to this. For millennia, God’s prophets, even Jesus, knew the masses weren’t paying any attention to their messages. If someone was listening, they were challenged to change, and well, you know how well that goes over with people.
The imagery of sheep and goats is used all throughout scripture, the goats getting the especially bad deal in end times stories. Jesus telling the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15) or Nathan telling the story about the poor man with nothing but one little ewe lamb (2 Samuel) are lovely pastoral stories that certainly get their points across. However, the reality of ministry is that more ministry is conducted among the wolves than the sheep. In fact, in some churches, the wolves completely devour the sheep … and the shepherd … and then each other.
A great occupational blessing of being in ministry is knowing that your relationships may be few, but they are solid. I had a handful of female friends who were kindred spirits. We were diverse and certainly not all Christian, but being Christian wasn’t part of the criteria for being friends. Being single in the ministry pretty much eliminates any social life. Since you don’t have any disposable income anyway, it’s not really a problem. I found it a great way to eliminate the chaff, usually fleeing immediately as soon as they saw the Rev. on my business card.
Finally, an occupational gift of being in the ministry is finding truth in the most unexpected places. I may have more training in biblical scholarship and theology than the average person, but none of us has any corner on the truth. The president of the seminary I attended wisely reminded us: all truth is God’s truth. Truth isn’t limited to any of the confines we construct religiously, politically, economically, emotionally, culturally, educationally … There are truth nuggets all around us, but we must be open and listening.
By the way, my mantra during these final weeks before the election: don’t harsh my mellow!