I am my father, and my son is me.
There will be times in my son’s life when he doesn’t want to admit that we are alike. This will ebb and flow until he reaches the point in his life (much like me and my father) when he accepts that we are related. This is a scary thing to think about as a young father, particularly as one who is about to have another child.
My wife is a superhero, especially on the days when our children are born. I just can’t get over the strength of love it takes to go through such a thing. I sit in the room and just listening to the doctors I start to get queasy. That’s what I am doing now: taking a break from the reality of childbirth to type my thoughts about childbirth. Don’t worry – my wife is fine and I am being a supportive husband! At least for the past 14 hours I have been.
Just before my daughter is born I have the familiar feelings of fear and worry sweep over me. I don’t worry as much about the procedure or her health, but more about how this person is going to be like me. I fear whether or not she will take on the negative aspects of who I am.
We are normally self-deprecating about things like this. I want her to look like her pretty mother and not have my big nose. I want her to have her mother’s joyful spirit and not have my impatience. But this is part of the birthing process – the giving of life. Life is always exchanged and shared. She will be like me. Though she will be fully her own self, there will be parts of her that lead her to acknowledge one day she that, yes, we are related. We are part of the same family.
Leading a church is a lot like childbirth: painful and life-giving all at the same time.
It will look like you.
As pastors we have to understand that as we serve our church, it will begin to look like us. Our shared life will rub off on each other. We will take on the DNA of that local church body and always carry it with us. And part of who we are will always stay with them. We are related after all, and we will start to look like each other.
So many times we fear that the church will only take on the negative aspects of our own identity. This is what we are often consumed with in our meetings or evaluations. Though we may be excelling in several areas, we fear the area where we lack. This fear is warranted because it is true. The church will take on our weak characteristics and it’s important for us to understand this. If we are self-aware and self-differentiated, it does not have to tear us down or hurt the church. In fact, in being aware of what we lack, we can see our inefficiencies and seek to correct them together.
Let me encourage you. The church will also take on your good traits. What makes you who you are, with all of your gifts and graces, will be revealed in the small nuances of ministry, much like how my son’s eyes always remind my wife of me. It is in these moments where we celebrate our togetherness and what it means to be part of the family of God. I may need the DNA of my congregation to rub off on me. I may need to look like them.
It may take some time.
This baby is taking forever! As much as I want my daughter to arrive on my schedule, she has a mind of her own. Even though it didn’t work with my first two kids, I still held out hope that she would come in the way and time that I wanted.
On our journeys we grow and change. We look different as we age. It takes time for us to grow into the full picture of our relatedness. We are often so quick to have our churches mirror us that we don’t allow the time that’s needed to give birth to the church. What if we tried to look like our church instead of wanting the church to look like us all the time? The beauty of the Incarnation is that salvation took some time. It took years, in fact. Give time for your relationships to grow and see what is birthed.
Remember – it might be a painful process. But I believe that through the pain we will find life.