I was recently in Atlanta for work—we were shooting footage for a project involving fabulous Spelman College—and our contact there set up all of our travel using the “ride sharing” service Uber. In our drivers we ran into an amazing cast of characters. This included a former music video director from Paris and a profoundly warmhearted pastor who was recovering from throat surgery. I am not a religious person but I was raised in the church and so I still find that much of the related vocabulary and imagery resonates. If I were God and I were in the prophet recruitment business, this man would certainly be a candidate.
The Pastor from Atlanta:
I found it by accident, actually. A guy hit my car going 55 miles an hour when I was stopped at a red light. The paramedics brought me to the hospital for scans and x-rays and the doctors saw that I had something on my lymph node. It is increasingly common, I guess, or I am hearing about it more and more. My mother had something like it too. When they cut it out, they were able to save my voice, thank God, because I am a pastor—so thank God indeed. I am glad that the man who crashed into me is alive and well, and I am glad that he brought to me the opportunity to catch that growth. I put all of my faith in Him when I went in for surgery and He took good care of me.
I am the pastor of an interdenominational church. I began my ministry in the Baptist tradition and I was raised in the Pentecostal church, but I eventually studied under many different denominations and saw that it all is ultimately about God. There are variations in tradition here and there, but in the end, it’s got to be all about Him. People get hung up on where they go—where they worship—and they forget that we are all God’s children at the end of the day.
My son lives an alternative lifestyle, and he is welcome in my church. Had he told me 30 years ago my response would have been different, but we are all God’s children. He brings his friends to church and had he brought his friends in 30 years ago, my response would have been different, but we are all God’s children. Some people still look at them differently—look at them sideways—but they are all hung up. “For in him all things were created: all things have been created through him and for him.” All is God and God is all, everything that came before, and everything to come. People forget. Some of us look outward so intensely that we forget to look in on ourselves.
He is musician, my son. He plays in our church, he and his friends. I played the drums for 44 years and I tried to take him down that route, but he went with the piano. He is bad, man; he’s so good. When he told me, you know, he was nervous but I already knew. I knew what he wanted to say and one night I told him out of the blue, “You know, even if I got a call from the prison tomorrow and heard that you’d killed 15 people, I would still love you.” The next morning he told me. I showed him that I set the bar of compassion and acceptance high and so he felt safe to be himself and tell me about who he is. He knows that I will love him no matter what.
There is so much of me in my son. Sometimes he is going through some issues, or having some troubles that I had when I was his age. I have wisdom to share with him, but I have to wait until he is ready hear it before I offer it. You have to wait until people are ready to share with them what you have learned. People are ready to hear you when they are ready, and it is not always when you think they should hear your perspective. I try only to share my wisdom with my son—what I learned from similar experiences and struggles when I was his age—when his heart is open. If you don’t do this, there is no use in sharing these things. They will fall on frustrated and unwilling ears.
I have been in the ministry for 35 years but I only recently became a pastor. I kept waiting and waiting for the opportunity to present itself, and for years I kept saying to God—God, if this path is really for me, please present the opportunity. Is that when God sent a car flying into mine to tell me that I had a problem with my thyroid? No, but that’s funny! He’s always at work, isn’t He? No, I said that if it is not for me, please take the desire to pursue this path out of my heart. Instead, He did the exact opposite. The desire grew! So I kept after it, the opportunity finally presented itself about two years ago, and here I am.
The church has lost its favor among many in recent years because men put themselves—their egos and desires—in front of it. It will make a come back some day soon. We need the church, and we need God. He speaks to us every day, and some day we will be ready to hear Him.