Inspiring People of 2018: Sunday Sermonizing, Vocation, and Eugene Peterson
It was the late 90’s.
I had been doing the pastor thing for several years. Long enough to look like I knew what I was doing, but not long enough to actually know what I was doing. My first real battle with the imposter syndrome monster was in full swing, with war cries, sweat, and blood.
During that time, I read a post on this relatively new technology called “the Internet” from another pastor who was battling the same monster. I don’t remember his name. But he said something about reading “Under the Unpredictable Plant” again. I didn’t know what that was and wasn’t familiar with the author. Somehow, I knew I should be. I used this same “Internet” to find and order this book written by a man 30+ years my elder who had already taken this path.
I knew when I read the introduction to that book I’d found myself a mentor. I bought, read, and re-read everything I could afford to get my hands on if it was authored by Eugene Peterson.
Martin Lloyd-Jones taught me how to preach.
Eugene Peterson taught me how to pastor.
He taught me the spirituality necessary to navigate the murky seas of soul work. He taught me how to be authentic in my vocation, which was the ultimate weapon for destroying the imposter monster then, and every time it would attempt to resurrect itself later. This carried me through my remaining years and a pastor, both in American and in Central Asia.
From 2014 to 2018, vocation became enigmatic again. I was no longer a pastor. I had a major identity crisis in 2014 when I began doing a job I could no longer call a “vocation”. I then become essentially vocation-less in mid-2018. The imposter monster and several of its minions were back, stronger than ever. And I had no weapons.
Eugene Peterson, my go-to mentor was also back, though.
I picked up The Jesus Way and my mentor helped me center once again on the essentials of my faith, calling, and identity.
“To follow Jesus implies that we enter into a way of life that is given character and shaper and direction by the one who calls us.”
Eugene Peterson - The Jesus Way
I thought I had the spirituality, weapons, and tools of a pastor which made me something. But this year my mouth is finally stopped and I repent in dust and ashes. I am not something. Jesus is everything. Vocation doesn’t make a person. Jesus makes a person. He shapes. He directs. He leads. I remember the hymn, “That I am nothing and Thou art all I would be daily taught.” - and I rest.
The monster is defeated once again. For now.
And the weapons passed along to me by Eugene Peterson were key to the victory.
I was sad when one of my most important mentors died this year. I would love to have met him in the flesh and blood of this life.
Yet, though he is dead, he still speaks. The magic of books allows him to continue his role as my mentor until the day comes when we will have all the time beyond the world for a coffee and a chat.
And I do plan on having that coffee, if for no other reason than to say “thank you.”