Human Like You

After graduating from seminary, I moved to my first full time pastorate. I was young and looked even younger. As movers unloaded our belongings into the parsonage, the doorbell rang. A visitor dropped by to meet the new pastor of First Church. When I opened the door my visitor looked startled. He didn’t say anything for a moment. Finally, after a long awkward silence, he said, “Is your father home?” My visitor was startled because I did not fit his image and stereotype of a pastor. And that’s not uncommon. People often have strange ideas about clergy. But pastors are just regular human beings. As the Apostle Paul once said to a group of people in Acts 14, “We are human just like you.” That’s all any pastor is. No more and no less. Pastors are real people. They have strengths but also weaknesses. Like you, they sometimes wonder where God is. They don’t have all the answers. They are, in Paul’s words, “human just like you.”

Years ago, I pastored a church in Arkansas. One morning my wife got up early to go to the grocery store. Later, I got up to shower and shave. I had just lathered my face when I heard my wife’s car pull into the driveway. A moment later, I heard knocking at the back door. I assumed my wife’s arms were full of groceries, and she needed me to open the door. I was wearing two things and two things only—shaving cream and underwear. I went to the door. Then I opened it wide. To my great surprise, it wasn’t my wife at the door. Instead, it was one of the women of the church. And it’s wasn’t just any woman. It was the president of the woman’s missionary union! If I had been fast on my feet, I would have quoted from Paul, “We are human just like you.” The next Sunday I saw this woman and told her again how embarrassed I was about the incident. She said, “Oh, don’t worry, it’s no big deal. I’ve seen lots of men in their underwear.” I think she was talking about her husband and three sons, at least I hope so!

Pastors are ordinary people, “we are human like you.” And the same thing is true for our families. Our children are just ordinary kids whose dad or mom happens to be a pastor. And the same is true for our spouse. They are regular people who happened to marry a minister. For example, I remember an incident from years ago, when our son was just a kid. He and a friend were playing outside, barefoot. Our son jumped into a ditch of water and cut his foot badly on a piece of glass. His friend’s mother, a member of our church, rushed Jonathan to our house to pick up my wife, and they all drove to the emergency room. The nurse began to clean his foot. The cut was deep and bleeding badly, and my wife began to feel queasy. She sat down in a chair, bent over, put her face in her hands, and breathed deeply. The nurse asked the woman with my wife, “Is she OK?” The woman, a member of our church, said, “Oh, she’s fine, she’s just praying.” She wasn’t praying. She was trying not to pass out and throw up!

Please remember that your pastor, his or her spouse, and their children, are just normal people. One of the best gifts you can give them is the freedom to be real. As Paul said, “We are human just like you.”