A whole new way of looking at “my labor” came many years ago when a friend introduced me to a quote from Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, Leaving Church.
“The call to serve God is first and foremost the call to be fully human.”
I copied it right away from the email she sent and put it on the bulletin board above my desk at the office.
I looked at it often trying to figure it out in my own context of professional ministry. What did responding to the call “to be fully human” mean?
I wasn’t quite sure, but I loved the idea of letting the competing forces as a minister go– the stuff I did on “church days” vs. the stuff I did on “off days.”
I loved the idea of more balance, more harmony in how I moved from task to task (not just the ones I was “paid” for).
Sure, I had a job description and goals, but could being a human being be my life goal? Because I liked being a human being who was also a minister, not just all those piled on expectations.
So, just for kicks I tried an experiment of living by these words. This is what I noticed:
- Showing up to care for my friends was God’s work as much as it was for those on the membership rolls of my congregation
- Happy hours out on Friday night became fertile ground for the stuff of life that really matters, just as much or more than the “churchy” tasks of the week
- I needed people to take care of me. Really.
Bottom line: more of us ministers need to let our humanness show.
And I don’t think this lesson is exclusive to pastors. Maybe it is a call to all people of faith.
If you want to serve God– be a human being!
But instead these are the messages that the church is known to project:
“Oh no, don’t join Rotary Club. That will take time away from the Property Committee at the church.”
“Oh no, don’t serve as a PTA mom at your child’s school. That will mean you can’t come to the women’s Bible Study on Tuesday mornings.”
“Oh no, don’t give your money to Habitat for Humanity. That will mean less money you can give to the church.”
But why does it have to be so much of an either/ or?
Yes, Christian community is important. Yes, being a part of worship on a regular basis helps us give God, God’s proper place in our lives. Yes, the sacraments are important and the work that can only be done in the church.
But, there’s a great big ole world out there. And if we’re trying to be human, we’ve got lots of ground to explore, people to visit, and moments of rest to take (because God took days off too).
Serving God is not a check box that will fulfill solely within the confines of any church activity. It’s a way of life.
It’s how we treat people.
It’s how we show up for people.
It’s how we use our time and resources to move forth good things in the world both for others and ourselves.
It’s how we say we’re sorry (because we all make mistakes).
And it’s how we give ourselves a break.
We’re only just human after all.