From closet dwelling introvert to pastor: some auto-biography
We are in the transition point towards our fifth Portrait of Faith. We have spent time with the stories of Moses, Elijah, Mary, and Peter… now we add Paul (and I have to put this out there because its dying to be said, “Look we have Peter, Paul, and Mary”). A common thread to all of these stories is how much these characters grow through their stories. All of these are ordinary people put to extraordinary tasks doing extraordinary things. God works sacrament in our lives, makes our lives a sacrament on behalf of the world. God takes us in all our seeming “normal-ness” and works miracles (some big and some almost imperceptible) through us daily, particularly when we are willing to imagine we are a part of something bigger than our selves… a bigger identity, a bigger community, a bigger creation… and yes even a bigger God than we might imagine on our own.
Let me share three images of me from my past for a moment.
The first is in fourth grade. It was recess (any recess, this was a common story to me) on the playground of Longfellow Elementary School in Wheaton, Illinois. Many kids are running around and there are kick-ball games going on out in the fields. In all this commotion off in the corner of the sand section of the playground (back then we used sand to “cushion” under the swings) you would spot a very small, very blond kid. He would be digging in the sand, various holes connected by winding pathways and then… if you watched long enough, you might see him gather up some ants and put them in this dug up playground within a playground as if he is scientist testing the abilities of animals to find their way out of a maze. If that is, you could tell that was what he thought he was doing. Welcome to a first glimpse of Andy (now Andrew but back then, and still in the state of Illinois, I was Andy).
Fast-forward to high school… just about any night in high school. And late at night when I was supposed to be going to sleep you might see me laying out a comforter and pillow in my closet and turning on my closet light and shutting the door. At which point I would pull out a book and read… read… and read. Generally until about 2 in the morning every night – even though I had to get up and leave the house by 6:35. (Well actually I didn’t need to, I wanted to – but that is a different story.) I loved to read and read into the late hours of the night. This kind of time was as good as sleep to me… and yes one night my Dad did find me reading in my closet and told me to go to sleep.
The last story could be one of two stories. It could be me in a tiny village in a rural Tboli village in Mindanao in the Philippines. A place that has no conception of private space or privacy and introverts really just have to get over themselves and resign themselves to having no time to be alone. Or it could be a working as a hospital chaplain where, responsible for five floors in a 1,000 bed hospital, I had to visit hundreds of people a day who I did not know and who – often enough – had no desire to talk to me. And I guess you could add another imagine… me preaching in front of hundreds of people. Shaking hands and talking and greeting and welcoming, me being in a job where people ARE my job. My vocation. My life.
What is a die-hard committed introvert who would just assume play with ants and read books in his closet doing in a job where my primary task is to talk to people all day? Preach to large groups? Meet people I don’t even know?
Honestly I don’t know how that happens… I don’t know why I do what I do. But God sure can work some amazing things in our lives when decide to be willing to move outside of our comfort zones. I understand Mary feeling too insignificant to do her task, or Peter just wanting to fish in a boat with his brother. I AM Moses wanting to be left along in the wilderness, or Elijah having to take a nap because he’s exhausted from being around people so much.
But I have also learned, from them and with them, to not let that stop me from hearing Jesus call… follow me. Follow me to places you never imagined you’d go. I’m in for this ride called life, and I’m in it for trying to do it the Jesus’ way. I’m journeying and stretching (some days less than others) and while it may not always be the life I would have imagined I’d live, in the way I’d imagine it, doing what I imagined I’d do… I wouldn’t trade my journey – for all its ups AND its downs – for the one I might have imagined… from my closet, from that sand pit… from my own comfort zone.
Thanks be to God.