One thing that I notice in the daily run of my life is that an awful lot of people are put off by preachers. I wish you could step into my shoes and spend a day in them; you’d find out what I’m talking about.

You go to a party, and the crowd seems pretty gregarious, fairly friendly. Maybe the ballgame is on in the corner, surrounded by a gaggle of fans, cheering their favorite team with some gusto. Casual conversation is heard around the room, usually centering on subjects such as what our kids are doing these days, or the recipe for those appetizers with the bacon wrapped around them, or that new tollroad down by the Trinity River. And then someone turns to me (or to you, since you’re wearing my shoes today) and asks, “So what do you do?”

“I’m a minister…yes, uh, that’s right, the pastor of a church,” you answer.

And then something happens – or, at least it often does. A sudden inhaling, or the person stops breathing altogether. Then you can see the person going back over everything he’s said, as if thumbing through a card catalogue, asking himself: “What have I said this evening?” Or maybe the person begins to apologize for the joke he told 15 minutes ago. Once someone responded by telling me the church he attends. Innocently, I asked what the minister’s name was, and he couldn’t remember. Walk in my shoes, and you’ll find that being a minister is entertaining at best – disconcerting at least.

My favorite one was when someone introduced my wife as “our minister’s wife.” The woman to whom she had been introduced took two steps back and looked at her as if she had three ears and said, with a note of astonishment in her eye, “Well…well…you’re pretty!” My wife smiled and said, “Well, thank you!”

I used to let all of this bother me. Quite honestly, I’ve even considered it a compliment when people say, “I wouldn’t have guessed you were a minister.” No one likes to live with stereotypes. But I’ve also come to another, perhaps deeper, possibility. Maybe it’s not me. Maybe it’s what the presence of clergy represents.

I have a feeling that there are a lot of folks who have been putting off the whole subject of religion – of faith. They’ve been busy running the kids to soccer, being successful at work, balancing an impossibly overloaded schedule, all the while thinking that one of these days, I’ll get around to that. In the meantime, they feel that they are leaving something out – something that was important to their parents and grandparents. But then, they say, their forebears lived in a simpler world.

I’m really quite normal. I really am. I even enjoy some of those jokes you apologized for. But I have come to the conclusion that it’s not about me; it’s about what people remember when I’m around. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing, really – just to be a simple reminder that there’s something more to life, something that maybe I can help someone remember, something that we too easily forget.

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