The Myth of Greatness

Scott Peck was a psychiatrist and spiritual director for many years. I’ve enjoyed his readings immensely. I periodically struggle with my vocation–my sense of calling and purpose in this world. On my best days, I have a sense that I have a gift to listen, care, and be a healing presence to others. On my worst days, I beat myself feeling like I should be doing more.

Growing up, we were constantly told at church that God had “destiny and greatness” for us, that we would do great things for the Lord. I grew up believing that…until a few days ago. I was working through an issue and realized that I didn’t have the experience to tackle it. I was so bummed and I just happened to fall on this section of Peck’s words:

So God’s unique vocation for each of us invariably calls us to personal success, but not necessarily success in the world’s stereotypical terms or means of measurement. Nonetheless, upon occasion, God does call us to positions the world also calls great. One of my relatives, distant family legend goes, had a clear calling to be a drummer boy in the Civil War—at the same time that Abraham Lincoln had what seems to me to have been a true vocation to both the presidency and to greatness. So I think there is a distinction to be made between “humble” and “grand” vocations. As I suppose fits the needs of society, most men and women have humble vocations. I do not want to imply that such humble vocations are less in God’s eye than grander ones.

Peck, M. Scott. A World Waiting to Be Born: Civility Rediscovered (pp. 67-68). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I’m not called to a grand vocation. But I grew up in a church culture that elevated grand vocations.

  • Do great things for the Lord.
  • Reach the Nations.
  • Be a world changer.
  • God has a great destiny and purpose for your life.
  • Impact. Influence.

I don’t think this is relegated to my pentecostal, charismatic upbringing. Peck had clients across the board.

I’m in my forties and I’m exhausted with that mentality. I’m also heartbroken. The best work I’ve done is invisible, unknown, and confidential. And even saying the phrase, “I’ve done” is a stretch. As a Christian, I believe the Holy Spirit has animated my life, transformed over a long period of time, so that I am influenced by the Spirit’s moving and filling. Like 12-stepper, I admit that I am powerless and need a Higher Power.

Like I said, I’m in my forties and there are some things I’m just tired of. I wanted to have a grand vocation. I’ve been working so hard, just waiting for my break, trying to prepare myself. Yet, I’ve experienced burnout, disappointment, and a loss of motivation because of this form of “grand” thinking.

I woke up today grateful for the gifts, life, and people I serve and am connected to. I’m more content today with my “humble” vocation. And I see that as a grand opportunity. I get to serve employees, go to school, and create music. Maybe not at a grand scale of ministry like others. But the folks I serve are made in God’s image. The school I attend helps me to be a better listener and caregiver. And I have a few open doors to do music projects with great friends.

I’ll take this as part of my healing journey. I want to reclaim my belovedness and live out of the core tenets of my faith: Love God, love others as myself, seek justice, do mercy, and be a person that is about shalom (a person and a systems total well-being).

Latino Redimido

“[A white theologian] claimed that we needed to reject the words [Christian and Evangelical] and the baggage that comes with those words. A Native American theologian responded that doing away with those words would prove to be convenient for the majority culture. Not only would the words be wiped away, but the responsibility for the negative history of those communities could also be wiped away. Sin would be be accounted for.” p.125

Soon-Chan Rah, Prophetic Lament

As a Latino who experienced poverty and fatherlessness but who is now educated and has some privilege, I’m struck by the feeling that I’m still a stranger at some tables. I fear that I’m still seen as the “token” minority in the circle. I fear that because I look different and might not sound as eloquent that I may not have a place at the table. I fear that my voice isn’t as important.

I refuse to be a victim of these fears and possible realities. But I also refuse to deny these possible realities.

I have been ashamed to Mexican-American for many years. I wonder why there aren’t more educated Latino pastors in my circles/settings. I wonder why I don’t have more latino pastor mentors. I wonder why I’m constantly make up the 1 or 2 latinos at the table, and still feeling like I’m just the token vato.

But I refuse to be a victim of these fears and realities. And I refuse to be bitter/resentful/angry towards those who might perpetuate the stereotypes. The Lord’s table and the Gospel of Grace makes room for us to sit at the table, share our personal and corporate stories, and ask God to continue redeeming our stories in His grand salvation work.

Life cycle of a pastor :: some resources

Glacier Rafting
Glacier Rafting

I’ve recently been struggling through questions of calling, effectiveness, and “next steps” (even though I feel fully affirmed by the employees I serve–and its leaders–as well as other pastoral leaders in my life).  I’m in the boat, paddling, but it seems like the waters ain’t “cute” anymore.  They’re getting faster and more complicated.

Based on the readings, it seems very natural and part of the life cycle of a pastor. I found the articles to be spot on with regards to my own questions, tensions, and desires.  If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s not to run from pain but to see what it might have to teach me.

For me, the articles are pointing to a reality that I’ve been wrestling with:

  • what are my strengths and weaknesses
  • what is my effectiveness and how do I measure it (being cautious of do quality ministry over quantity)
  • how do I sustain myself long term
  • who are the people in my boat that can help me navigate these waters (I have a few…you know who you are!)
  • as a marketplace minister, what unique challenges do I have

The following articles are proving to be helpful and I hope they are beneficial to other pastors who are going through the process as well.  This is only a preliminary reach of understanding the life cycle as a means to deepen the pastoral call and work.  May God grant us wisdom and strength as we seek to live faithfully and fruitfully in Him.