Lightening the discussion for a moment…
For my new readers in Central Vermont (and afar!), I will repeat what I have said elsewhere, I do consider it part of my ministry to be so transparent in my humanness that people can’t help but think, “well if God can use *that*, then maybe God can use me too!” This means that while some of my posts are about serious problems like poverty, homelessness, or the plight of the poor in developing countries, and some are about the nature of God or the purpose of prayer, or other theological and ministerial issues, some posts are just about parenting and clothing choices and silly moments in my life.
And this one is about my hair.
In fact, it’s about one of them. My gray one. And yes, there’s only one (actually, there are about three of them, but only one is crinkly and sticks out and makes her presence known).
I’m proud of this gray hair, and I refuse to dye her or her friends. I know, I know, you’ll ask me in ten years if I feel the same, and I certainly reserve the right to feel differently. But right now, I’m proud and I feel like between being in ministry for four years and being a mom for three, I’ve earned this little trophy of experience. You see, I’ve spent nearly every day of those four years or so trying to convince people (often myself, too, to be honest!) that I am old enough, wise enough, and experienced enough to at least begin to do the work I do. A pastor is a person who carries a fair amount of authority or at least tries to, and sometimes that respect (again, even the respect I have for myself, on my low-self-esteem days) is undermined by being the ‘young’ or ‘pretty’ pastor, rather than the wise or experienced one.
And sometimes it’s just funny. Take this exchange yesterday at a gathering of probational/provisional elders (that’s the term, currently in flux, for us United Methodist pastors who are in the three year period of evaluation before ordination).
An older pastor whom I love and respect and often have very little in common with (and that can be a good thing for us to learn from each other!) was explaining why he had a hard time relating to those of us who were describing the time of transition from one church to another.
“It’s been a long time since I did that,” he mused. “I’ve been at my church for seventeen years.”
There was a pause. “Twelve,” I said.
“No, seventeen. I’ve been there seventeen years.”
“Oh, I know. But twelve,” I replied. “That’s how old I was when you started at that church. I was twelve.”
When we each recovered from that particular shock, I at least mused that it is a wonderful thing to be colleagues with folks across generations, and, while I try not to go out of my way to point it out, it’s sometimes cool to be the young’un, but it means I often have to be that much more intentional about also being respectable and skillful and in search of wisdom.
So I’ll take it. I’ll take a gray hair or ten or a head full, and I’ll look forward to the day when I hope I, with humility and grace and respect, have wisdom to offer incoming pastors who were entering puberty when I was entering my current ministry.