When I arrived at their house they introduced me this way: “This is our pastor …” and even though I have been a pastor in a small town now for over three years and people have said this before, I heard it differently this time. It made me … happy. I thought … oh my goodness, this is how they see me … what an honor.
I thought … I’m theirs. And then later I thought about the other kinds of professions where we use the possessive … my doctor, my attorney, my teacher. Some, of course, not so much: the chef, the pilot, the drummer, the editor. There’s a little more distance between us and the people doing that kind of work.
I liked it, I liked that those folks introduced me to their friends as our pastor.
Because, you know, that’s a thing in life. There is the question of who we are — ostensibly we use our lifetime to figure that out if it’s not obvious early on (or, more likely, the world is making us swim upstream through a bunch of crap that has nothing to do with who we are)— and there is also the question of whose we are.
In that moment I had arrived to officiate at the wedding ceremony of two people, on a weeknight. We had a fantastic traditional Bavarian dinner first, then the five us went out back to stand beneath the tall trees beside the stream to have a silly (“Do you take this lederhosen-clad gentleman to be your husband?”) and beautiful and meaningful ceremony of love. It is one of the highest honors in this life to do this for and with people. When I am marrying a couple I often feel as if I am floating above the ground, up in the air, like a bridge, anchored by each person on either side. Their intentions and hopes, history, dreams, delight, flow through me as we speak the words that bind them as married partners.
Whose am I? Of course I’m theirs, their pastor. Bound with them, connected by our shared stories, on a journey of love and faith, together.
Whose am I? I had breakfast with my dad yesterday. We talked of his future, his and Mom’s. I am theirs, I love them so.
Whose am I? I miss my kids. Some days they are so far away. But if they needed me I would, I would swim the seas to get to them. That song, I love that Townes Van Zandt song … if my kids needed me, I would get there as fast as any modern form of swift movement could take me. And my friends, too, for that matter. Every one of them dear to me, some close, some far, it makes no difference. I am theirs.
Whose am I? Tommy and Kristin and Steve. And their kids and partners. To them I am sister, aunt, an honor. Theirs.
I have started this new practice. I used to keep a journal; I used to record the stories of my days in small books. Now, instead, I write just the names of the people I have encountered and spoken with each day. Some days the list is very short; other days quite long. I can look back through my days and see what I did by the names of the people with whom I came in contact. I call this journal The Richness of My Days. Because, of course, all of these humans, they are treasure to me. I am theirs, too.
Who am I? Formed and with enough self-knowledge now that I am willing and eager to take it on the road and talk about it: a child of God, conduit, artist, writer. I have learned to embrace the depth and meaning of my cellular structure, the gifts that were given so freely to me. No more questions about that. Watch me talk sometime, see how much I move my hands and you’ll know I mean business.
Whose am I? I love this question. The answer is of depth of connection, of meaning, of intention, accountability, of promise. I picture in my mind a room full of the whose of my life. What a dream that would be to have them all in one place! I hate that it’s usually our funerals where all of the important whose come together.
I am deeply humbled, amazed and enchanted by those whose, always, every day, my garden, the soil in which I root my who. Amen.