I’m so anti-self-promotional that it can sometimes be embarrassing. While interviewing a potential new employee a few years ago, I found out from him that I was known in the local industry as The Phantom. I laughed out loud and asked why. He told me that everyone knew my name and where I worked but few had ever met me. Well, in business it’s generally good practice to be networking, putting your face on billboards, shaking hands, kissing babies, and so on. I never liked much of that; my focus was always on promoting my team, providing them with the best resources available, pushing from behind when fear set in, and making sure the product got delivered—sort of like an invisible cheerleader. The end result was that we usually placed at or near the top of whatever category we were competing. And that’s what mattered; results are what pay the bills, not hot air. But I understand that who I am may matter to you if you choose to take any of this material seriously.
I’m a preacher’s kid; actually, I’m number four out of seven. I grew up in different parts of rural Pennsylvania as Dad moved around starting new churches. I heard about God at every meal, after school, before bed, during birthdays, on vacations, in the bathtub, standing in the corner, and, of course, on the mandatory Wednesday nights and Sundays. In fact it seemed like every day was Sunday. That may be a little dramatic, but it reminds me of Deuteronomy 6:7 in which God instructs His people how to best remember His words: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” I guess Dad and Mom were smarter than I thought they were. But Dad didn’t subscribe to any denomination, label, or brand in his preaching, deciding instead to just proclaim the good old gospel straight out of the Bible. The idea that what God thinks is the only thing that really matters kind of stuck to me and it has created no small obstacle in growing some of my relationships. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:2 that we should “not be conformed to this world” and I’m sure he was right, but it certainly makes living in this world a bit more of a challenge.
At this point in my life I’ve invested in twenty-seven years of marriage raising two children, worked almost a quarter of a century in various aspects of the sales and financial services industries developing large databases of clients, served as chaplain on the boards of two nonprofit organizations, and labored for years in church leadership and teaching, but I have to admit that I still struggle to relate to people. I’m convinced now that the constant immersion in the Scriptures from conception to diploma had a great deal to do with forming the way I think and how I view things—often very much against my own wishes. I can recall many times when I chose to do the wrong things with my friends simply to avoid being singled out as the preacher’s kid. But, to twist a metaphor, putting on wolf’s clothing didn’t change the fact that I’m a sheep. And the Good Shepherd didn’t let me forget it, either, because He seems to have a big thing for community and fellowship so He refused to let me stray very far.
They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Perhaps I’m more like my dad than I thought because I find myself constantly preaching something to somebody, although I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Maybe these letters are a partial attempt at discovering my true identity as well as a renewed effort at connecting with the flock. The only thing I know for sure is that God knows, and I can trust Him as I take each step forward.