I recently started a second blog in which i am deigning to “preach”, explaining in my prefatory remarks that the notion of “preaching” brings to my mind the popular expression of the Valley Girl days, “Barf me with a spoon.” Though I have tried to avoid it, I’m sure that here from time to time as I’ve “held forth” I have ventured into a “preachy” mode in spite of myself. It is just part of who I am; and, fortunately, I approach the subject now with more humility have no pretensions to have any ultimate truth to offer, only my feeble, often self-centered, interpretation of Ultimate Truth.
In my youth, I got the “call” to preach when I was sixteen years of age. Now, of course, this was no surprise to anyone, including myself, as everyone knew that it was in my future. It was a role that had been proffered to me from early on…even from before my birth…as I learned that my mother had promised God that if only He would give her a boy, she would give him to God. Those of you who are clinically minded can immediately see the overwhelming issues that I was presented with even before I had any awareness of what was going on in this bewildering world.
This is such a complicated story but I will be brief. When I “surrendered to the call” at age 16, it really was good for me in some way as finally I had an identity. For, I was not a jock, not even close to being a “BMOC” (Big Man on Campus), and had my hands full carrying myself with the dignity that I did manage to muster forth. But, suddenly I was a “preacher” and I knew who I was. But now, looking back, I see so clearly the problem that I was dealing with on some level in my heart though not consciously at all. For, with this “surrender” I had addressed an ego need but spirituality and spiritual leadership is not about fulfilling our ego needs. I was the “Hollow Man” that T. S. Eliot wrote about though at that age only a “Hollow Boy” who would eventually grow into a “Hollow Man” and spent most of my life in that empty house.
In my early twenties, especially after a year in a hyper-conservative cemetery…I mean, seminary…I knew I had to listen to the tumult in my heart and quit this ersatz ministry. But, at that time, I had no awareness of just how ersatz the whole of my spiritual life was, only that I was very unhappy with it, and needed to escape. So, with great shame and even humiliation, I “renounced” my call to the ministry.
Forty years later, this “call” is still present as in some fashion it was my lot in life. But it no longer is the immature “call” of my youth and I’m not even for sure that “call” is the right term. That ego-laden spirituality of that era of my life is maturing and I’m so delighted that it leaves me with no need to “convert” anyone or to argue with them about spirituality. There is a Presence in this world that I like to call “God” and it/He/She is quite capable of doing any “converting” without any help of my manipulation or intimidation. God is a personal phenomena and if we do the bidding of the Apostle Paul and focus on “working out our own salvation with fear and trembling” we will have our hands full and not have to project out on others our own spiritual inadequacies.