Sometimes I imagine someone like Paul, a great visionary figure of the early church, basically mythological at this point, sitting quietly in a bustling agora of some Greek city early in his career, working at tent-making, or making backdrops for the theater, or whatever it is that he did with that verb in Greek that the lexicons disagree on.
I picture him taking pleasure in the work, quietly enjoying himself, forgetting the weight of his calling. He seems like an outgoing guy, so he probably knows his neighbors in the nearby stalls where crafts people set up camp and sell their wares. Maybe he talks with other canvas-workers who share the stall with him, telling stories, sharing advice about technique.
I imagine this not because I really think Paul necessarily did any such thing, but because I have similar feelings a lot of the time, and I tend to project them on others in imaginative little sequences. (I honestly live about 60% in my imagination)
When someone tells me something like “If you can see yourself doing anything but ministry, you should do that instead” (believe me, I’ve probably been told this two dozen times) I have to hide a smirk. Like ministry is some sort of especially excruciating profession that only the toughest amongst us can engage in. Behind my belief that the above is a sort of foolish statement is a little sliver of fear.
I can imagine myself doing a lot of other things, some of which I might even be good. Obviously, I can imagine myself being an astronaut or a rockstar or a dog-whisperer, but that’s just me imagining things I couldn’t really do. On the other hand, I can easily imagine myself being a professional writer, or a teacher, or a counselor. I’ve often said that if I can find a way to earn a living doing game design, I’d do that in a flash. I’d love to be a marine biologist or a chiropractor or a physical therapist. Or a standup comedian. Or have a radio show.
I get the impression that I’m supposed to feel guilty about this, and sometimes I guess I do. I mean, you’re supposed to give up everything to follow Christ. You’re supposed to take up the cross, to sell all you have, to relinquish violence – lots of absolutes.
And I think as pastors or pastors-to-be, especially early on, we get this kind of arrogance, this frustrated self-righteousness about how the laity don’t get it, the laity won’t change, the church has all these problems, the church is backward, no one really understands the Gospel.
But really, pardon my french, but if the Gospel isn’t good news for fuckups, it isn’t good news for anyone, certainly not me.
And, you know, if God has in fact called me, then to some degree God gets what God asked for.
I just love my hobby – that is, roleplaying games. It is probably illustrative that, of the three blogs I maintain, the other two besides this one are completely gaming-related. And it isn’t like I see rpgs as a method for ministry. Quite the opposite. I see them as disassociated from ministry, and that is part of why I love them. They are a double escape – from the usual reality, and from my specific reality of the all-ecompassing thing that is professional ministry.
Sometimes I enjoy brief lofty thoughts about my hobby – that it is tapping into the primordial power of narrative, that it is shared dramatic expression, that it is a way of building new myths in community, that it is the best form of a game because it is active and engaging of the mind and imagination…
But the real truth is that I just like it. I’d like it if it was demonstrably degenerate, if scientific studies proved that it literally killed brain cells, or caused cancer. I’d become a vegetable, or die, with some dice in my hands.