Going into seminary, I knew that people would treat me differently, but I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. And I didn’t expect people to treat themselves differently. When I was leaving my job last August I had a conversation with one of the truck drivers:
Him: “You sonofabitch, I heard you were leaving the post office!”
Me: “Yeah, I’m going back to school – I’ll be heading to Austin soon.”
Him: “No shit?! That’s badass…what are you going to be studying?”
Me: “I’m going to seminary to become a pastor in a church.”
Him: “Oh, wow. How very nice for you. I am glad to hear that you will be doing that. May God bless you on this journey.”
The moment I mentioned ‘pastor in a church’, Marty’s entire demeanor changed. He stooped a little bit, lowered his head, and brought his hands together as if he was going to start praying. In that instant he changed who he was – from the Marty I knew (swearing, boisterous, crude) – to this new Marty (proper, clean-mouthed, reverent). And I didn’t like it one bit, either.
Honestly, I don’t like this change that people make when they discover I’m going into a church-related field because they suddenly become someone they’re not. Marty struggles more to not swear than to swear. People who haven’t prayed in decades suddenly have an urge to say grace over their meal when I join them at their table. Friends want to tell me that they have a Bible app on their phone and that they’re trying to read it every day. The cigarettes are hidden, the beer is tucked behind the leftovers in the fridge, and everyone is so polite and loving. But it’s all a ruse, and I know it is.
The greatest thing you can do for me, and for your friends who are Christians, is just be you. Don’t try to save face by pretending to be someone you’re not. I love you for who you are! I want nothing more than to meet you right where you’re at in life – praying or not, Bible-reading or not, church-attending or not. Give me the real you and let me love you as you are, not as you think I’d want you to be.
much love. sheth.