Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Christian Shame

The past weekend I arrived with my wife at one of our favorite retail stores of which we have started somewhat of a casual relationship with the owner. She is in her mid-40's and very funny and sometimes even a bit inappropriate. (That day she cursed at us for making her get to work then casually laughed it off.) But I must confess that I enjoy how comfortable and real she is around us. She knew that my wife and I are both grad students in Pasadena, however; she did not know that we were working on Master's of Divinity degrees to go into some capacity of ministry. She of course asked us this past weekend to explain what we were studying and then after we responded she looked slightly confused and began a barrage of questions about our chosen path of life. THIS WAS SO AWKWARD. I and my wife afterwards discussed how difficult it was to convey to her that we are not only Christians but those pursuing professional ministry.

So where does this fear come from? It comes from the worry of losing that which we already had; a good open relationship. We enjoyed her comfort and knew that her demeanor was at risk with our being exposed as moral Christian folk.

I have had a bit of time to reflect on this and I was recently met with a reflection from a reading by Greg Ogden. He uses Eph. 4:11-12 to explain the role of a pastor. "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up...." (NIV) He then quotes Elton Trueblood in saying: "...the pastorate is for those who possess the peculiar gift of being able to help other men and women to practice any ministry to which they are called."

In both of these passages there is a great sense of call. In other words, I am not in charge, God is. My fear is in spite of trusting the work of God. In reflection, having her ask about what I study is the easiest way to state that I am a person who knows God. If it changes her behavior around us, have I lost much? No, because I do not change around her. This is a part of being in our world but not of our world.

In the end, we made a purchase and "talked shop" a bit more and were reassured that we will be given a hard time for making her work in any subsequent Sundays we decide to stop in. She knows we will be back, and I know she will probably welcome us with an equal and akward warming demeanor as usual. However, just as I trust God with my call, I will trust Him with our next conversation.


wanderingellimac said...

that's a hard one josh. i often deal with much of the same thing. even talking to the prostitutes on the street - half of the time i wish i had a more tainted past so i could connect with them better. or i just want to keep the truth about myself hidden so i don't scare them away. it's a hard one to trust - and i think that's just because we've seen so many walk away (because of the bad experiences they've had.)

Laura said...

I'm reminded of what my aunt used to do when she was a little girl in Brazil, going out to visit neighbors. Before she left her house each day, she would pray that God would bring himself up in conversation. Then she would just go hang out with whomever she met, and true enough, God would bring himself up just like she asked. I think what's cool about your story is that in the midst of a relationship already formed, you were able to share more about who you are in response to her curiosity. That kind of approach makes a much more natural atmosphere for having God-conversations because it really is natural. Kudos to you and Rebecca for getting through the awkwardness and laying a foundation for freer conversation with this woman. Awesome how God works, huh?