I have spent so much of my life trying to be what I’m not.
Some of you may read that statement and think that I’m referring to my gender identity. In the case of this post that would be incorrect. I’m thinking about other ways in which I’ve seen myself over the course of my life.
In 3rd grade I discovered that I had some small musical talent. I had a fair voice and good ear for music. I took up the clarinet (in the hope of being an oboist). I was pretty good at the instrument. My parents provided for me to have a teacher. I learned music theory. I was good at it. By the time I had reached high school I was the best clarinetist in my high school. Actually I was the second best clarinetist. The best had gone on to take up the bassoon. However as the acknowledged “best” I was given a couple of plum opportunities which I took and at which I excelled. At one point my band teacher suggested I apply to Oberlin College in their music program. I didn’t but over those years I always considered myself a musician. By my second year in college I knew that I was mistaken.
In college I proved an apt student. I excelled in Greek and Theology. My professors wanted to see me become a scholar, a professor and maybe even a seminary professor. For a while i considered myself an exegete, an aspiring New Testament scholar. I was invited to do grad work and I knew I was on my way to being a life long scholar. But it didn’t work out.
I went on to parish life. My time in the parish was fruitful. I discovered “the gift.” I did my best to develop it but never only as “the gift.” Because I had innate rudimentary skills, I imagined myself to be a cross between an actor and a stage writer and a speaker. I even went so far as to create “Theological Theater.” However I was never really any kind of stage artist.
So I began to re-imagine myself as a writer. I thought of myself as one with the gift of words to be used as I desire. But I was wrong.
It took years before I finally came to recognize what I am and to be OK with it. I’m a cleric with a gift for preaching. That’s what I am. No more and no less. A friend of mine once told me, “You were born to be priest, like Langston Hughes was born to be a poet.” Be it Lutheran minister or Episcopal priest, I belong in the parish. I belong inside the church doing Word and Sacrament ministry. That is where I am my best self. That is where my gifts function best.
So here I am–not an musician, not an artist, not an actor, not a writer, not a scholar. I’m just an old country preacher with city experience. And I’m good with that.