There are many things about my personality and who I am that I need to work on and change for the sake of ministry (and to be a better person). One of the more pressing one is that I need to start liking people. Er, talking to people. Or to be more specific, talking to church people outside of church.
It’s weird. I have no qualms of running into people (both strangers and people I know) at coffee shops, like a Starbucks. Maybe it’s because I think of Starbucks as an extension of my office. So I’m still technically “working.” And I don’t ever recall, since college, where I went to Starbucks to not “work.”
So the other day, I was walking to get some lunch by myself when from a distance I saw a parishioner. What did I do? Turned around and went the complete opposite way. Why? I have no idea. I mean, it’s not like they were going to ask me to join them for lunch. It would’ve just been a “hey, how’s it going” and “have a great lunch” and maybe even “what are you eating/going to get?” type of short exchange. But I completely avoided them.
But I do that. All. The. Time.
And, I never get caught. Why? Because I’m Asian. And much like how all of us have taken some form of martial arts at some point of our lives, we are also born with some innate ninja skills. Some more than others. Like myself.
I’m a master of hiding behind aisles and displays at a grocery store. I have mastered (from an early age) of hiding behind people and things like trees, cars, shopping carts, and any other inanimate object. (I have to admit, as I got taller, I had to get more creative. Or get a lot lower…)
I may have perfected these innate skills growing up, as I spent a lot of my teenage years avoiding my dad’s church members everywhere I went. I mean everywhere. I would always keep a peripheral view of my surroundings to make sure there was no church member. Why? Because they were always so nosy. And annoying. If I were with a girl, they’d call my mom and who that girl hanging out with me was. Sometimes, I would “forget” to tell my mom who I was hanging out with. So naturally, she’d be really curious who that girl was. And the conversation would always end with, “Is she your girlfriend? You can’t have girlfriend right now. You have school. Is she Korean? You marry only Korean girl.”
If I were wearing some ragged clothes or what not, they’d somehow think that they’re my mother and start criticizing what I wear. And then, of course, they would tell my mom what horrible outfit that they saw me in. Not only would they tell my mom, they’d start telling everyone about my shennigans and what not. And for those who didn’t like my dad, I would serve as their ammo to go on a tirade about how out of control the pastor’s family is and if he can’t control his family, how could he run the church, yada, yada, yada. (Do any other ethnic PKs [pastor’s kids] have to deal with things like this?)
So running into church people would always be so annoying and taxing.
Unless we were eating. Because church members would often pick up the pastor’s tab. Which made my dad not want to go out and eat at places that were popular amongst the church people. Actually. You know, my dad doesn’t like running into church people outside of church, too. Although, it may not be as extreme as me.
It’s just painfully humorous the lengths I’ll go to hide from church folks in the middle of a Wal-Mart. And, sadly, I’m equally proud of myself when I am successful. (And I’m always successful. I never get “caught.” I just sometimes decide that I should man up and go say “hi.”)
While I know that I can’t be the only clergy who feels like this, I know that I may be one of the few who actually goes out of his/her way to hide. And I need to start really working on that.
Maybe a part of it is because I don’t want to always be in “pastor mode.” Maybe I just want to be goofy and inappropriate and laugh at tasteless jokes and watch questional movies that I know will have me laughing, but might not be appropriate for a “pastor.” And, when I see someone who knows me as a pastor, there’s an invisible switch that needs to be flipped on. Or maybe, I’m just lazy (a known and proven problem).
Whatever the reason, I need to put my ninja skills to a different use instead of hiding from parishioners. There’s no harm in talking to parishioners outside of the church.
Heck, it’s possible that they’re avoiding me as much as I’m avoiding them. But each moment can be a holy and God moment. And I shouldn’t go out of my way to avoid such moments.
As I’m writing this, outside of my favorite Starbucks, I just made eye contact with a church member who was at the store next door. Whoop. And now they’re walking over.
God, you’re real funny sometimes.