One of the reasons I used to enjoy acting is because I could receive audience attention without being in the spotlight. It was the character to which people were paying attention, little old me was just along for the ride. This might sound like a strange admission for a pastor, given I speak in public all the time, but it’s not uncommon for introverts like me to prefer to be in front of the crowd instead of in it. When I’m presenting, or preaching, or sharing a story I get to take back seat to the content I am sharing. My personality is in it, to be sure, but there’s enough of a divorce I’m able to face people’s attention without being overwhelmed with the sense of connection it brings. And when that stress seeps through my mental barriers, I usually blurt out some inane quip to give myself breathing room 1.
But things are different I am forced to be in front of a crowd and there is no content to share, or character to play, and I have to be myself. I hate it when I become the center of attention. As as pastor, the most painful moment for me each year is when the congregation takes a moment during the Christmas Eve service to thank me and my wife for being part of Central. It yanks me from the content of worship and makes me be me, at the center of attention. Shudder 2. I’m not grumbling about the attention, because I know it’s important for the church to express this gratitude 3. Still, it does make my palms sweat.
On Sunday my wife and I were again the center of attention, and I had nothing to buffer me from me and the crowd. I wasn’t the pastor, or host, or teacher, or leader — and my wife wasn’t the “pastor’s wife 4, we were just two expectant parents who’d been brought before our church family. There was no presentation to be made or prayer to be said. In that moment we were just us as the church did one nice thing for us after another.
I can’t say I liked it 5, as it was not my natural environment. But I must say I felt both loved and honored. These folks went above and beyond on our behalf. And that makes me appreciate all these relationships, formed over fifteen years, all the more. I may have felt a bit “flee-y,” but more than anything I experienced gratitude for how much these folks mean to me. It was a great afternoon.
- My psychology is weird. ↩
- Yes, I often say something stupid. Also, given my last post this discomfort should be seen as ironic. I never said I was good at any of this stuff. ↩
- Even if I think it’s undeserved. ↩
- She never is “the pastor’s wife.” She just gets involved in things because she couldn’t conceive of not being involved. ↩
- And stupid comments abounded. Every other photo my neighbor took shows my wife looking at me like I had four heads. ↩