Earlier this evening, I was working in my office when Obie freaked out. He freaked out in a way that usually indicates that someone walked up to our front door. It turned out to be a door-to-door salesman. I pried open the door while trying to keep the Golden Beagle from charging at the guy on our porch and stepped outside.
As salesmen go, he was very salesmanly. Before I got a word in, he tried to make a connection between and my neighbor who had just bought his product. He was about to kick off what appeared by the contents of his bag to be a fairly lengthy demonstration when I had to interrupt him:
"I’m sorry, but I am presently working on a paper for school and I really don’t have time for this right now." And that was true; a very convenient truth.
He said okay, handed me a bottle and said I could just grab $40 for it. I politely handed him the bottle back and said no thank you.
"Good try though wasn’t it?" he remarked. Like I said: uber-salesmanly.
I think I made some sort of affirmative grunt. Then he asked about my paper and if I was in college. I responded that, no, I was actually in seminary. His eyes lit up.
"So you’re going to be a millionaire?"
"Uh, no. Kind of the opposite. I’m studying to be a pastor." The "pastor" part was weird because I don’t think I have ever in my life said that I am studying to be a pastor. Minister, but not pastor.
His tenor changed immediately. “You’re going to be a preacher? Would you pray for me?” he asked.
I was caught slightly off guard. Uh, yeah, sure I would.
"Would you pray that my wife and my family that we would all get back together?"
"I certainly will do that, sir. What’s your name?"
He told me his name three or four times to make sure I got it and then asked a couple of more times if I would pray for him.
Now I’m not a rube. He very well could have been playing me; trying to gain my sympathy to make a sale. But even if that was the case 99 times out of 100, I have to always assume he is telling the truth for that 100th time.
He thanked me and walked off into the darkening evening. I went inside and prayed for him and felt particularly weighed down. The mention of my being in the ministry completely changed the trajectory of that conversation. I don’t think my vocation makes me any different. In my own headspace, I just see plain, flawed, regular Chris. There’s nothing special about me.
But the nature of that salesman’s question, whether he was being honest or not, came from a place that believed that there was something special about a minister praying for you. Now I personally don’t believe that. I believe that God hears our prayers all the same. But what I think does not change that other person’s perspective. Somewhere in his context, ministers are somewhat elevated in stature.
That’s a bit scary and sobering. Cognitively, I know that much is required of those that follow God into vocational ministry. I know that it changes how I need to interact with the world. I have never thought about how it changes the way that the world interacts with me. Encountering that reality out in the wild felt like encountering gravity after a period of weightlessness. Maybe because this encounter didn’t happen when I was “on call,” but it changed an interaction with a total stranger at my front doorstep.
I’m rambling a bit, but I don’t think I have reflected recently on the weight of my calling. Again, there is nothing special about me. In fact, I believe that all who follow Jesus are called to ministry and we should all recognize the fact that our faith should change the way we live in this world. I just don’t think that I fully realized how this vocation is going to impact any random interaction I encounter. There’s a grave seriousness to that, but I believe that is a very good thing.