before I put you in those boxes

Pastoral Identity.  We spend so much time talking about it in Seminary.  So much time thinking about it.  We talk about how hard it is to nail down, how hard it is to believe in yourself, how hard it is to listen to that small voice of God saying you are called and gifted – especially in the face of every day life and ministry.
Then you get into your first call.  People start referring to you as their Pastor.  You fill out your taxes as a self employed member of the clergy.  You get your ministry license.  Later you get your ordination.  Your denomination recognizes you or your congregation if you are a non-denominational pastor.  You start to put Rev. in front of your name – or not.  Everything point to the fact that you are the pastor.  Your identity should be rock solid right?
You are Pastor.
But then you’re out in the “real world” one day and you think about the work that you do in comparison to those sitting around you at the coffee shop.  Or someone asks you what you do and then responds in one of those many hurtful or confusing ways…
“You’re a what?”
“You don’t look like a Pastor.”
“But you’re so young.”
“But you’re not wearing a collar – you don’t dress like a pastor.”
“Can women even be Pastors?”
“You must mean you work with children. Or do you do women’s ministry?”
The thing about being a pastor is that it permeates every single space of your life.  It makes a lot of life decisions for you.  The way you act, the things you do, or don’t do.  I can’t really think of another profession that has that much power over your life.
Because the thing with Pastoral Identity, is that it isn’t your average profession.  It’s a calling on your life from God.  It’s different.  It’s in the Other category.  But our brains can’t fully handle it.  They can’t fully comprehend what it looks like when there isn’t anything to compare it to.  Just like I look at people in other professions and think “I could never do that…” I shouldn’t be surprised when they look at mine and think the same thing.  Right?
So what does it mean to struggle with Pastoral Identity?  To have something so contextualized to your specific call but also your general call.  Because I believe that I was created in a way, gifted in a way that prompted me to be called by God to be a pastor. He has equipped me and shaped me to be a pastor.  Simultaneously, I have been called by the church I serve to be a specific type of pastor – to serve a specific congregation, in a specific town, during a specific time.
There are things that I believe that God has called me to be about that effect my position and vice versa.  So how do I remain faithful to both at one time?  Pastoral Identity means we are constantly asking a series of questions about ourselves and our world – What does it mean to be a pastor here?  What does it mean to be single and a pastor? What does it mean to be female and a pastor?  What does it mean to be Latina and a pastor?  What does it mean to be a pastor?
How do we figure it all out?  Through community and BY THE GRACE OF GOD.  We interact with the Spirit and we try our hardest to decipher what He is leading us to.  And we attempt to walk the walk.
The thing is – I look at other around me in the coffee shop and I think to myself, “I could never do that.”  Because I believe in my call.  I believe that I was created for this and I now that I wholeheartedly love it.