Well… “normal” is relative.
I, much like my very dear childhood friend Calvin, also found it incredibly odd to see teachers outside of the classroom. Thinking that they had “normal” lives was something I could not comprehend. Especially those teachers who would not raise a single eyebrow of his/her students if one were to discover that the teacher indeed slept in a coffin or dwelled in a cave or habited somewhere under a bridge during their time outside of the school campus.
And more and more, I feel that many people have that kind of thoughts when it comes to us pastors.
…not about sleeping in coffins or caves or living under a bridge demanding a toll any time someone crosses… (well, who knows…)
I often come across people who are perplexed — shocked, even — when they learn that I find entertainment outside of the Bible and church. I know! Scandalous!
Starting from the years where I was trying to figure out who I am (and other terrifically terrible puberty moments), I’ve been asked countless of times, “Can you really do/listen/say/read/watch/drink/eat that?” (Okay, maybe the “eating” thing doesn’t have to do with being a pastor but being a Korean. Yes, yes that is our food. Yes, I know it smells like dirty feet airing in the hot desert heat. But I promise you, it doesn’t taste the way it smells. Okay, I can’t really promise you that either.)
I remember some youth parents being offended that I found affinity with Tupac and had all the Eminem albums on my iPod.
“What kind of example are you setting for my kids?” they’d ask. Well, not any better example you’re setting because they only found out about the stuff on my iPod because they took it without asking and starting browsing through my song selections. It’s not like I blared it in their presence and had a sing along to “Without Me.”
But that comes from the sick expectations that Korean parents had/have of their youth pastors… I mean, they’d pretty much expect us to turn this kid’s life around with one prayer — all the while, at home, the kids are getting verbally abused, watching their parents do shady things… and when the kid screws up, it’s “what are we paying the youth pastor for? He can’t even keep my son out of trouble! And he listens to rap music!”
… yea…whoops, I got a little carried away.
But, I watch a lot more TV and movies than I care to admit. And a lot of things I watch is what some Christians would call “not redeeming” and pretend they don’t watch. (Okay, I’m sure they don’t “pretend” to not watch it. There are far more folks who are holier than me. And I’m okay with that.)
I have several guilty pleasures, one of them being the Sports Entertainment business of the World Wrestling Entertainment. But I watched that stuff as a kid and will always hold a special, nostalgic spot in my heart. My friends and I would make our own championship belts out of poster boards and have some awesome wrestling matches. (Just to clarify — that was when we were like 12). And yes, I know it’s fake. But, those athletes (and yes, they are athletes — I don’t see you doing anything they do) really do put their bodies on the line.
In the spirit of Smells Like Teen Spirit, I sit in front of the screen and demand that it “entertain us.”
Because, I like to be entertained — from the mindless (non-redeemable) entertainment to the things that teach you a profound lesson and gives deep meanings on what it means to be a human.
I browse through great and thought provoking website to scrolling the mindless pictures on buzzfeed. And I am a casual redditor.
My iTunes collection consists of “you have to listen to them” (say… the Lone Bellows or Gungor) to “Oh. Yea, don’t judge me” (say… *Nsync and Miley Cyrus. What? I said don’t judge.)
Underneath our robe (or whatever we choose to wear — just be thankful that we’re wearing clothes) we pastors are fairly normal human beings.
Some of us do engage in binge watching — and no, it doesn’t have to be things like History channel series The Bible by that lady who was on Touched By an Angel and the dude that does all the reality shows on TV.
Some of us will watch rated R movies that have … content that makes it rated R — whether it be violence, language, nudity — or the best kind: all of the above! (Ha! Although, some people of faith find violent movies acceptable — even enjoyable — but say that nudity and sex in movies will destroy minds and souls. Well yea, but so do movies that have violence in them, right? No? Eh… moving on)
We like to eat junk food.
Some of us are stress eaters, while others are stress sleepers or, like me, some are the avoid-all-human-contact-and-the-world-when-stress-gets-too-much.
And here’s a dirty secret: some of us still struggle with God and some have doubt. But you didn’t hear that from me. Contrary to popular belief, nobody on this God’s melting earth has it all figured out.
But most importantly, all of us have feelings. (If you cut me, do I not bleed? … is that how that quote goes?)
So please don’t think it’s okay to send a nasty email because it’s our job to hear those things.
Don’t assume that we have thick skin. Many of us don’t. And if we do, it’s because we earned them through all the scars we received from those who assumed we had thick skin.
Don’t think that we’re not affected if you criticize us. Not everything is like water off a duck’s back for us.
And trust me on this. When you’re frustrated about something, most likely, we’re frustrated as well. We’re a lot smarter and more perceptive than you may give us credit for. I mean, I know I look a little slow. But I’m not slow. Well, not that slow.
There are graceful ways to share your frustrations without making us your punching bag.
And here’s a shocker — brace yourselves. We’re not perfect. Don’t listen to anyone who claims to be. We will make mistakes. It’s never a matter of “if” we screw up, it’s a matter of “when” we’ll screw up and “how often” we’ll screw up. We ain’t God — and I apologize on behalf of us who felt that we knew better than God here and there.
But it’s hard to hear your thoughts and concerns and your heart when you come in guns a-blazin’ and throwing verbal punches hoping any or all of it would make contact. When we feel attacked, we may have the need to fight back. Or run away. You know, fight or flight deal. And there won’t be a productive and redeeming outcome to the conflict.
I could go on, but I’m getting bored, which must mean you were bored like 5 paragraphs ago.
Anyway, give your pastor a hug or a high-five or whatever her/his comfort with personal contact might be. Not everyone is a hugger.
And know that even though they work once a week, they work the hell out of that one day. Or.. is it more correct to say “They work the heaven out of that one day.” Ah. I don’t know.