My mother says I was born serious. Could be. For example, I remember that when I was six or seven one of the neighborhood kids slapped me. I turned the other cheek. Because . . . well, I went to Sunday school is why. I was a serious kid. (Or at least a kid who took things literally.)
But I still do. That “love your neighbor” thing . . . I still believe that. I’m a pacifist despite all the objections—objections that I know very well are correct. I say “welcome the stranger, no matter what,” even though I know that immigrants present very real logistical problems.
Perhaps over-seriousness is why someone ends up a minister. Believe me, there are better ways to make a living. I suspect there are even better ways to make the world a better place to live. Yet, at least for me, nothing says “I’m here to care” quite so well as hanging out that shingle saying “minister.”
I’m not sure where we get the idea that commitments are supposed to be easy. Evidence suggests that “easy” for most primates includes violence and taking stuff away from other primates. The opposite of that “natural” impulse ain’t easy.
I’ve wanted to be a minister since I was, oh, seven or eight. Back then, I saw myself as a child wonder, waving my Bible and leading everyone to the Lord. That dream faded when I became an agnostic. But, even that didn’t stop me. I became a Humanist minister. A recent New York Times articles traces that trend among many younger people (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/17/us/more-students-secular-but-feeling-a-call-turn-to-divinity-schools.html?_r=0).I can see why I wanted to become a minister when I was a kid: in the Pentecostal tradition I grew up in, we had the highest respect for preachers. But in the secular world I inhabit now, I get quizzical looks: “what?” “Why?”
It’s certainly not for the money. It’s not for the glory of talking to a large crowd of people, many of whom will inevitably be yawning.
For me it is, I suppose, a persistent conviction that that “turn the other cheek” thing and that “love your neighbor” thing and that “justice rolling down like waters” thing ought to be true in this world, whether there is some sort of deity out there or not.
And I suppose it is my persistent belief that human beings can be better than we have yet been, partly by listening to the words of the most lovingly impractical people that humankind has produced.
Maybe, sometimes, it’s best to remain a serious kid.