I realize I have not posted since April of this year. Truthfully, I lost my inspiration. Life, ministry, and other work have so burdened my family and me the last eight months that I took a needed hiatus. And I'm not yet through with the hiatus, but what I have to say today has so burned its mark in my conscience that I cannot remain silent. So, if you please, I'll begin.
When I was a child, no one noticed me when I walked into a room. The kid with the big, funny nose, impressive gap in his teeth, and quiet disposition didn't tend to make much of a splash. Plus, I didn't come from money, my parents weren't influential community members, and I wasn't considered very smart. I was a nobody, an outcast, a loner.
And I accepted this station in life! Heck, I didn't know any better. I simply played in the woods with the few friends I had, went to school, participated in youth sports, and dreamed of the day when I would be able to fly fighter jets for the Air Force or Navy and leave the humiliating, reclusive lifestyle of which I had become so accustomed. Without lengthening this story unnecessarily, I was eventually able to move on, get a college education, attend graduate school, join the military, and generally find my place in the world. But in those intervening years between the gapped-toothed, taciturn boy and today, I learned one immutable truth about myself: I am no hero.
You see, I believe most people enter this world, live in this world, and die in this world looking for heroes. As newborns, our heroes are our parents, and we cling to them unwaveringly. But there comes a point when we realize our parents are pitiful failures and disappoints (or so we think), so we look for other heroes. Some of us find them in college professors or workplace supervisors, others in superstars and professional athletes, still others in charismatic peers, and then there are the fortunate few who find their champions in metaphysical beings, but wherever we eventually find our heroes, we search them out incessantly until they are discovered. Then we latch onto them like newborns and remain affixed until the inevitable disappointment or betrayal occurs, at which point we begin our search anew. And this is the cycle of life until we die, where we hope our heroes will provide the inspiration necessary to face death with dignity and courage.
Like most men, I want to be one of these heroes. I want to be the professor, athlete, superstar, peer, or spokesman for some metaphysical being (in my case, Jesus Christ) who inspires others to want to better themselves, grow in personal character, become more like their religious muses (again, in the case of my ministry, to become more like Jesus Christ), and generally improve their stations in life. But, again, when I walk in the room, no one turns his or her head. Sure, I've gained some limited reputation for being a good public speaker, an accomplished writer, an educated man, and a renaissance-like character, but once I step off the stage, once a supervisor or teacher has read a paper of mine and offered his or her showering review, or once someone examines my resume and recites the trivial "Wow, you've done a lot of things," they quickly forget about me. I preach for a living, and I've noticed so many times how I will captivate an audience during the sermon, only to have them turn their backs on me and not even make eye contact when I enter the crowd to leave the sanctuary. My tendency is to impress, but only momentarily.
I've often pondered why this is so, and the only thing I can land on is personality. I'm generally quiet and reserved. I don't make a fuss over myself or anything else for that matter. I do my job, I do it competently, and then I move to the next task or problem (I realize this sounds like Charles Emerson Winchester III in his introductory episode on M.A.S.H.: "Gentlemen, I do one thing at a time, I do it extremely well, then I move on." But I can assure you I don't offer my version with his pomposity). I don't solicit fanfare, and I certainly don't covet the limelight. Friends know that I'm a drummer, and that's exactly where I'm most comfortable--in the back, keeping the rhythm, and only occasionally stepping forward to take lead vocals. And because of this personality typology, people forget I'm in the room. I mean, who can name more than two or three drummers in famous rock-n-roll bands? And this would be fine by me, were it not for my chosen profession. I am a clergyman...a man of letters who is expected to inspire, motivate, and captivate, which, when translated using 21st century socio-psychology, means I am to do the work of a hero. But I'm no hero. Personality wise, I'm just an ordinary Joe--a funny-nosed, gapped-toothed, soft-spoken boy who plays the drums, all the while watching the lead guitarist and lead vocalist steal the show. I am a reluctant pastor, preacher, teacher--a man who does what he does because he is passionate, called, and gifted, not because he's a rock star or inherently magnetic in any way. Indeed, I am unable to squeeze myself into the boxy charismata of modern evangelical sensationalism, superstar pastordom, and entertainment-driven consumerism.
Of course, I must ultimately accept this reality; I have no other choice. You see, our Lord and Savior teaches that the first will be last and the last, first, and I believe this to be true with all of my heart. I just wish the rest of the world--and especially the church--believed it. What our hero-obsessed culture doesn't realize is that by pushing away the supposed last, you elevate the truly last and, thus, fill our world's leadership roles and pulpits with men and woman who, in seeking their first-place positions, denigrate their professional/ministry offices and organizations/churches and thereby perpetrate irreparable damage. That is to say, by looking for and elevating the ear-ticklers, we miss the true ear-, heart-, and spirit-fillers who don't lead because they want to lead but because God has called them to lead.
But I'm not going to change who I am. I mean, come on...God made me this way. Furthermore, I don't need to be the hero because Jesus Christ already occupies that role, and He performs His duties so much better than I ever could. But I would be less than honest if I didn't admit the inner catechesis in which I currently find myself, asking the pointed question, "God, where shall I serve?" I love the church, but I don't know if I can continue to serve where temporal heroes are wanted and The Hero and His call for humble leaders of meekness, gentleness, and charity are ignored. Yet as soon as I think this way, the "first-last, last-first" principle begins immediately to ring in my head, and I am again drawn back to the Bride and the epiphany of service in all of its self-sacrificial complexities and blessings. And then my question turns to "God, whom shall I serve?" and He responds, quite quickly I might add, with a confident and boisterous, "Me, you idiot! I don't need heroes! You need me!" And this "me" clamors and shouts and sings in my mind and won't release its grip until I am comforted with the contrariwise cry of Isaiah: here I am God, send me...your humble, broken anti-hero! And this is where I land every...single...time. Praise be to God!