Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What do you do?

My friend has blogged about the social stigma that come from the phrase, "I am a seminary student." This friend, however, is male, and I believe that I have a whole different perspective of the discomfort that the revelation of my status as a seminarian can bring.

Women get to experience a range of uncomfortable encounters in the medical/personal world that (most) men don't get to experience until much later in their lives. Women get the joy of having an annual gynecological exam (and if you are a female and don't, you should). Along with that (and sometimes other) doctor's appointment come the joy of the breast exam. Or what about the Brazilian wax? Let's face it ladies, there are a lot of times that someone else's face is in our "business."

Well as a seminary student, I dread the inevitable question of "what do you do?" I try to dodge the question telling the asker that I am a full time student. More often than not, that person asks me what I study. I tell them theology. Now, my favorite types of doctors/nurses/whoevers stop at that. That answer suffices. Most people, however, need more details. They want to know what I want to do with my degree. This is where I start to get nervous. Not only is someone's face in my "business" but now I must tell that I will be (and already am) serving a church as a pastor. The conversation then halts...

Even the most uncomfortable situation can be made a bit more enjoyable with pleasantries, but once I have revealed that I am a pastor, one of two thing happen. Either the person stops talking altogether. Now I am faced with the reality that this person is either looking at me or touching me in places that I don't even like to acknowledge exist, and they are silent. Great... awkwardness ensures... OR that person decides to spill their entire personal, religious/spiritual history in depth, presenting me with issues to solve in the few moments that we will spend together. Now this is not like the dentist asking you a question while her/his hands in your mouth... at least then you have an excuse to just shake your head and make polite eyes. You try to keep silent while your gynecologist asks if you recommend any churches in the area.

And the reality of it is that this is something I am going to deal with for the entirety of my life. Not only in the superawkward conversations like at the gynecologist or while getting a mammogram (oh do I dread the day that I have to have one of those...) but they will also happen while I am getting my hair cut or while I am getting a manicure. It has happened! It sucks!

But that is the truth of this calling and all others. If you tell someone you are a lawyer, they ask for legal advice. If you are a nurse, they ask you for medical advice. If you are a stay at home parent, they ask you for parenting tips. And if you are a pastor, they ask you to see a part of the deepest parts of them, the parts that often no one else has ever seen. They trust you with the things that no one else can be trusted with...

...and no matter how uncomfortable, I try to radiate the love of God that fills me with life and light.


Michele said...

similarly, had a massage therapist do the same thing to me! next time i'm going to lie for the sake of sanity and say i'm a waitress.... :)

good thoughts as always.

Anonymous said...

I can't think of anywhere in the Bible where God calls followers of Christ to be comfortable. We are foreigners, this planet is not our home. I'm still trying to process how you discussed mammograms and seminary in the same paragraph, but take those "awkward" situations to point people to Christ and His desire for a relationship.