I’m down here this morning, enjoying my caffeine with a view, and wondering just what exactly what the week has in store for me. Across the room sits a representative group of Seattle’s finest. You gotta believe that a place that can attract cops without the lure of a good donut must be a pretty worthwhile establishment. I find it interesting, how one reacts to the presence of uniformed law enforcement. It causes me to wonder about the placement of my cup. It causes me to be self conscious about my choice of seating. Is my posture appropriate? Do I look guilty for that last rolling stop on the way down to the beach? How much of the two hour parking have I used up? Do I look like the last APB that was broadcast over their radios? Do they even notice paranoid people like me all around them, and if they do, is there some measure of demented pleasure that comes from knowing that you can torment people like me simply by stopping by for a good cup of coffee? It’s rather funny because I have friends here who have been policia or currently are. They don’t care about my posture. In fact they are very gracious to my shortcomings.
So I’m wondering then, what kind of signals do I give off? Is there an aura about me? I’m pretty sure that there is and it doesn’t bring me comfort. Believe me, it’s on my “to do” list, working on my attitude and presence I mean. For those of you who have never tried it, I have to tell you that it’s hard work. It’s going to be the most difficult thing that I’ve ever done, next to being a good husband and a good dad. Since I’ve not yet mastered those two tasks, I’ll be working on all of them simultaneously. It can sometimes be like spinning plates high on those poles. You have to be timely and you have to concentrate. There is always the risk that one falls while concentrating on another. And then there’s the people who are witness to the whole process. Some will be casual observers and some will have box seats. Every one of us lives a fishbowl existence whether we want to acknowledge it or not.
Being of the “pastoral arts” profession, I have a somewhat larger task ahead of me than some, not that it is a competition. It’s just that with the title comes inherent expectations. It is mainly because of the “aura” that comes with the image of “Pastor” that I choose not to tow the company line. From first appearances, I’m not recognizable as pastoral in the traditional sense. People would put up unnecessary walls and hold onto unreasonable paranoia, much like I do around the uniformed coffee house inhabitants here at the beach. I also don’t like the haircut…I have other things to work on though. As with the police, I understand that, if recognized, I have the power to do good or evil when it comes to how people feel when they are around me. I have it within me to make them comfortable or anxious. Even larger though is my responsibility to help those who learn from me in my community o’ faith to be conscious of their “aura” that is presented to those they encounter everyday.
As it is with everything, in order for me to teach on a subject, I feel the responsibility to have begun to struggle with the journey myself. My goal is to be one step ahead of those I teach and then lead them and empower them incrementally along their own journeys. I’m not, by nature, a people person. I get drained, emotionally and physically, by people. It is one of God’s ironies that I have been led straight into the midst of people for the past fifteen years. I’m a pessimist with an optimistic faith. The difficulty for me becomes in trying to convey the optimism that grace demands. I mean really, it is because of grace that I have hope and yet I know that I am more than capable of degenerating into an aura of hopelessness. There are some people who radiate energy and optimism and hope. They give life and people want to be around them no matter how mundane their task at the moment might be. My wife is blessed to be one of those people. She is type “A” with a capital bold font. We have often shared together how our personalities balance each other. I have only recently realized the implications of that for myself. It means that in order for there to be a balance I have to be boring in direct proportion to her being fun. I have to suck energy in direct proportion to her radiating it. I need to tell you that this idea of a balanced relationship, while being beneficial to the whole, is not so much so for the “balancing” individual. It is not acceptable for me to have an “aura” that is anything remotely draining on anyone who I may encounter. In fact, being a light in the darkness is a pretty prominent teaching in the Book of Books. So I continue on my journey.
And on this particular journey, I have become increasingly aware that those who share my faith and sometimes even my faith community have an “aura” problem. I have to wonder sometimes if it is not a reflection of my own. There is a saying that “those who can…do, those who can’t…teach”. I intend to work on doing and not merely teaching. I want to live hopeful instead of teaching it. I want to extend grace instead of teaching it. I want to love people instead of teaching it. I want to give energy instead of removing it. On this journey, I confess that I’m not one step ahead of anyone, but if you’ll agree to join me, I can at least walk alongside.