One of the things that cracks me up is when people treat me like some knick-knack on their grandmother’s shelf, a fragile soul that will shatter into pieces, when people drop the F-bomb and, shamefaced, apologize to me, “I’m sorry. I hope I haven’t offended you.”
You see I wasn’t always a pastor. I didn’t grow up in a pious family. And I’m thankful for that.
Sometimes I think back to my formative early ‘teen years when I toured around with a jazz band, A Little Night Music. At age 13, we found ourselves in a wild party in the farming community of Modesto, California. As we played toward the back of the lawn at a cocktail party, we saw couples gradually pairing off and heading for the bushes… and certainly not only with their spouses. There was one free-spirit, who—emboldened by enough Jack and Cokes—faced the band and decided to do high kicks in her mini skirt facing while we played Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet.” One additional fact: she wasn’t wearing any underwear. Tending figs and cows must not be all that interesting.
(Then there were the years at Cal--by now having been a Christian--when I came back from studying at Doe Library and returning to a house full or fraternity brothers crawling on the floor, having taken hallucinogenic ‘shrooms. But I'll leave that for the next edition of this essay....)
I haven’t always been a pastor, and I’m thankful—thankful because I don’t come to faith and to the church with the immense baggage and rage that churched people do who are still muttering about “the hypocrites” and the “legalism” and “all the evil stuff the church does.” True I never sang Kum Ba Ya crying around a fire at a Christian summer camp. But I had the opportunity to read about Jesus with fresh eyes, without the distorting fun house mirrors that Christianity so often puts between us and God. For that, I am grateful.