Shepherd’s Care: Restoring Our Personhood

As we continue our exploration of how we might go about renewing our hearts, I want to write today about a second avenue: restoring our personhood.

I first realized the need for this through the writings of Thomas Merton, and his comments about “plaster saints.”  On a more personal level, it hit home when the Annual Conference I served in around 1973 surveyed the laity to see what the dominant images of their pastors were.  Among many helpful insights, was an overarching perception that clergy were “different” and could not really be expected to understand how the laity actually lived their lives day in and day out.

No matter how it may come to pass, the loss of our personhood damages the heart of a shepherd.  Simply put, if the Incarnation says that it was okay for the Word to become human, it is okay for us to be human as we minister in Jesus’ name.

God takes our lives seriously; so must we.  God remembers we are dust; we are the ones who forget it.  God is committed to individuality; we are the ones who trade in our uniqueness for an image.

The heart of the shepherd always beats inside a particular body—mine and yours.  Our aims may be similar, but how we represent them will vary with as much specificity as our lives represent.

Being “human” includes being authentic, being relational, and taking care of ourselves in ways that will enable the fruit of the Spirit to grow within us.  It means accepting our distinctive personalities and exercising our particular gifts.  It means recognizing the “season” of life and ministry we are in, and honoring it.

The people you are serving only have one chance to have “you” as their pastor.  Don’t give them somebody else.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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