This is my final installment in the Hall of Fame series. I have highlighted two youth pastors and an English teacher. This is about another youth pastor which can mean only one thing: the most influential people on this planet are youth pastors and English teachers. Cool huh? (Okay, sorry, Ted. History teachers may be able to get on this bus too.)
I met Jay my senior year. This already sounds like a sappy love story. It isn’t. He’s married and this isn’t inspired by The Notebook. I digress. Jay was the new youth pastor at our church my senior year of high school. He brought a spontaneity, passion, and energy to the youth program that had faded away over the years. He continued where Paul left off in showing what it meant to live a Godly life. Jay took this a step further though and was willing to talk about difficult things. As a student, I didn’t have the courage to talk about some of the things that he could, but I saw a vulnerability and an honesty on a personal level that I hadn’t seen from a pastor yet. For whatever reason, Jay chose to guide me and mentor me even though I didn’t fit too well into the inner circle of High Point Student Ministries.
The one thing that keeps coming back to me is when Jay told me to watch my sharp edges. In one of our conversations he warned me about the way I came across to people, that people didn’t see the world the way I did. They should…it would be a much more colorful and enjoyable world but again, I digress.
I think about these sharp edges. It’s in my genes to be intolerable towards spinelessness and stupidity. I often say things I think are funny, but are a bit too sharp (as in hurtful, not witty). My “sharp” side says that people need to grow some kahoonas and not be so sensitive. But that’s not likely in the people business. So I’ve spent that past 10 years trying to take the edge off. We’ll see, I may still get there yet.
The story with Jay doesn’t end so happily either, which is another lesson I learned from him. In time of turmoil within the church, we didn’t have a senior pastor for 5 years or so. That’s a long time for no pastor. Jay took it upon himself to hold the body together, to act as sort of a head pastor until they could find somebody that was a good fit. They found somebody, he wasn’t a good fit, and it doesn’t matter because those years of trying for everybody broke Jay. It broke his faith, it broke his energetic spirit, it broke the guy that I had considered to be one of my closest friends.
He moved away and hasn’t been back or talked much to people here in Colorado. What ever happened took place in the depths of his heart or a church office but I learned that there’s more to life than a job. When it comes down to it, the most important thing in this world is my relationship with Christ. Then my wife. Then my kids, followed by extended family and friends. My job is at the bottom of this list. Sure, things get hairy and they need to extend some grace when grades are due or when essays stack up, but even then I need to take a step back and take care of what is most important. Even if it means that it takes me a little longer to return papers, so be it. When all is said and done and I’m ready to retire, I want my wife to be with me, my kids to love me, and my friends to surround me. When I retire teaching won’t matter anymore. That isn’t to say that I value my students, but hopefully they can see that they, or their parents, or my supervisors, or my coworkers can break me.
I leave that up to God. Otherwise, it just isn’t worth it.