It’s hard to believe, in our post “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman” era, that people still can mistake me for a doctor because I wear a necktie.
Yet it happens nearly every day. Last month, I was walking the hospital hallway when an ambulatory patient called from the doorway of his room, “How’s it going, doctor?”
“I’m not a doctor,” I told him.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he replied.
I paused — mostly for the effect — turned to him with a wry smile and said, “I’m not.”
It was true. I wasn’t disappointed that I am who I am. I wasn’t sorry that I didn’t hold the position this patient seemed to revere.
Jesus actually had the same problem once. He had all kinds of people saying some pretty crazy things about him. Biblical records indicate that some people thought Jesus was a ghost of an old prophet. Others were saying Jesus was a lunatic.
Jesus brushed those stories aside and turned to the people who were really important in his life, his students. “Who do you say that I am?”
Peter stood and said it straight up. “You da man!”
OK, OK, he didn’t exactly say that, but sort of. He said, “You’re the Christ.”
Yet, even in the face of that astounding revelation, Jesus gave a more astounding command. He told them to not tell a soul.
Why would he keep such a secret? Perhaps he was trying to avoid being crucified prematurely. Yet, I think it was much more than that.
I think Jesus had arrived at that moment in his life where he knew that he didn’t need to “proclaim” who he was. His walk, his breath, his talk, exuded one who truly was different. He knew his purpose, and he knew he was the only one who needed to feel contentment in that purpose.
We all need such moments. I had such a moment at my ordination council in 1981.
When I faced the inquisitive council of ministers, most of their questions were spontaneous, but one question was designed to elicit a scripted answer. The question was a rite of passage.
“What,” they asked, “will you do if this council does not ordain you?”
I told the council that even if they mistook me for someone who was not “called,” I would continue to pursue the purpose God had for me. While my answer was coached by my father-in-law, I was sincere in the answer. I told the council that even if they didn’t affirm my call, I would continue to minister and share the unending love of God with all.
There always are people who will refuse to affirm who you are or will insist on you being someone you’re not. But as I learned from my learned colleagues on the council, maybe we shouldn’t be dependent on such people. Maybe we spend too much energy trying to proclaim who we are and not enough effort just being who God wants us to be.
Nevertheless, as much as I struggle with this issue, I continue to be mistaken for someone I am not. Last month, my mother-in-law noticed the unique way I tie my shoes off to the side, and mistook me for a fashionless geek. Just goes to show it will take perseverance to press on being who you are.