I spent twelve years in full-time ministry, but I always hated being called pastor. I’m not really sure why. I have no high-browed, hipster, theological issue with the term or the role – in fact I cherish every minute of it – it just always made me cringe when it was used as an extension of my first name.
“Pastor Erik! Pastor Erik!”
“Please, call me Friar,” I would usually retort.
I took an amazing new job last fall at a missions-focused non-profit here in Indy, and with it finally hung up the pastor monicker after a dozen year run. So it came as a bit of a surprise when I realized I was sort of missing hearing the name that had so long been an object of my disdain.
I first noticed it a few weeks ago sitting in the stands of a charity basketball game at the christian school where my kids attend. The teachers were playing the preachers (a.k.a. church staff with a better rhyme) in their annual grudge match. The stands were packed! As the pre-game introductions were made, the pastors made their way onto the hardwood amidst wild cheers and crazy-fun nicknames. There were high-fives from the crowd and screams of appreciation that lasted through all four quarters and into the post-game celebration. It was a blast.
But amidst all the jubilation, I was wrestling. That used to be me. I used to be the man. The go-to. The guy everyone cheered, recognized, and looked to in these kind of settings. Now I’m just a dude sitting in the second row of the bleachers. Now I’m known as Emma’s dad (although I will admit that’s a sweet gig).
And in that lovely moment of pitiful self-absorption, I clearly heard God’s voice deep in the recesses of my spirit:
“That feeling? Yeah, that’s my love.”
Your love? Your love? So your love feels like a pity party? Is this a Taylor Swift song?
But He was right (somehow I think He usually is). You see, I’ve got a mistress. A secondary god. An idol I’ve bowed to in worship for a big chunk of my life. I long for, feed off of, and define myself by the accolades and approval of other people. I’ve written about it many times here, and from the responses I know I’m not alone in this struggle.
Defining ourselves by anything other than Christ’s redemption always leaves us searching, longing, yearning for something we already have. We can even find ourselves looking amongst some really good things.
Jesus and influence.
Jesus and motherhood.
Jesus and creativity.
Jesus and good works.
Jesus and pastoring.
Jesus and being liked, looked to, and appreciated by those around you.
Jesus and _________________ (fill in your blank).
As pastor Tullian Tchividjian puts it, “most idols in themselves are good things, good gifts from God….the trouble comes when transform these into ultimate things.” Do you ever find that to be true? (Don’t lie to me now).
Most of us spend our lives trying to earn what’s already ours, instead of living freely from a yearning that’s long been satisfied. We have Christ, but we’re always looking for our and. Just like me, God loves you enough to remind you to stop looking for what you already have.
“My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me.”
– Galatians 2:20 MSG
What’s your Jesus and?