“What do you do?” he asked.
“What do you mean?” I said, still bleary-eyed from the trip.
“For a living, what do you do?”
You have to realize that when you’re a pastor and someone asks you this question, you’re tempted to lie. My intern supervisor used to answer by saying “I’m in insurance.” I know other clergy who say, “I’m in sales.” Most pastors have an answer that deflects the conversation.
(For the record I almost always tell the truth. It’s not that I’m more virtuous than other clergy, I’m just not that great a liar and I’m afraid I’ll forget my cover story)
It’s not that we’re ashamed of what we do. We just know what’ll happen as soon as people find out we spend most of our time in a church. The reason why most clergy don’t like telling people what they do for a living, especially when on a plane or on vacation, is because the tenor of the conversation changes as soon people find out we have the word “reverend” in front of our names.
People often get quiet and nervous, afraid that we’ll whip out a bible and start preaching. Or they want to share their problems, or they ask hard questions about God and suffering (questions which we’re supposed to have answers for at the tip of our tongues), or they tell awful stories about how badly they’d been treated by church people and we end up apologizing for things we’ve never said and for things we’d never dream of doing.
I was tired. I had just arrived in Mexico and just wanted to rest. But the inevitable question that’s the centrepiece of western small talk reared its ugly snout.
“What do you do for a living?”
I wasn’t thinking. It wasn’t intentional. I wasn’t really sure what I saying but the words just spilled out,
I help people grow into the fullness of who God wants them to be.
“Wow. That’s a good answer,” I told myself, mentally patting myself on the back.
My conversation partner quickly glanced around the room searching for the nearest exit, his eyes seizing on the “G” word; a word banished from polite conversation. He looked at his worried wife. Then asked, “So, have you heard who won the Blue Jays’ game this afternoon?”
But that...(whole thing here)