Pastors Are Just People Too
“Oh, we’ve caught you barefooted.” I must have laughed because this remark caught me by surprise. For when I am at home I am ALWAYS barefooted. Jeans. T-shirt. Messy Bun. Bare feet. This is pretty much my natural state. And to my mother’s chagrin, when folks come to visit, even church folks, I don’t change my natural state. I just go with the messy bun and bare feet. But I don’t blame my church friend for being surprised. For when he usually sees me I am dressed professionally, sometimes even wearing a robe, with hair and make-up done. And I am always wearing shoes. This moment flashed me back to my first year of ministry. I was twenty-five years old and as green as could be. I think I overcompensated for my youth and inexperience by always dressing and acting the part. Nice clothes. Nice hair. Nice attitude. I was always in “preacher mode.” Except for when I wasn’t. When I was out to dinner with my husband or walking our dog or spending a day at the beach I looked exactly like every other 25-year-old young woman in Savannah. And the contrast was so striking that no one ever recognized me. I would smile and wave when I saw a church member at a restaurant only to watch them struggle to recognize me. Finally, a light bulb would come on and they would say, “Oh, it is you!” It got to the point that I joked I was like Clark Kent. Once I took off my robe and put on my glasses I was mysteriously unrecognizable to all. Even though I looked basically the same. Now the Superman analogy, unfortunately, is not out of line.
Because for some reason church members sometimes think of their pastors as a little more than human.And sometimes because either they think they need to or because sadly they want to, pastors play along. But let me set the record straight on one thing.
Your pastor is entirely, fully, messily, beautifully HUMAN.They get tired. They get cranky. They argue with their family. They snap at their kids. They get scared and sad. Sometimes they cry. Sometimes they rage. Sometimes they feel like giving up. And they surely at some point go around barefooted.
Now, this is not to say that they can get away with any behavior under the guise of being human. Some actions are just wrong.I went through years of tests and interviews and psych evals to make sure I was not a danger to children or vulnerable people or likely to lie or steal or otherwise hurt the church. And rightly so! Some behaviors are totally unacceptable for pastors. Wait, those behaviors are totally unacceptable for anyone. So, if your pastor is meeting the mark for acceptable human behavior, just go ahead and embrace their humanity.
When they are tired, give them space to rest.
When they are struggling, let it be okay for them to struggle.
When they are courageous enough to be uniquely themselves, welcome it.