“Ohhhhhhhhhh.” That’s all he said. I wondered if I had some spinach between my teeth. I thought we had a lot in common. I thought we could have been kindred spirits, comrades in arms (or triathlons). I went to his office for some physical rehab and I heard him talking about a competition over the weekend. Since I’ve had some success in the sport, I thought I might just see him at an Olympic distance Tri somewhere down the road. But when I told him what I did, all he could muster was, “Ohhhhhhh.” It used to be that when I told someone what I did, he or she might respond, “Cool,” or “That’s awesome.” Some would even say, “I considered being one too.” But nowadays I just hear, “Ohhhhhhh.”
You may wonder, “What does this guy do?” I’ll tell you. I’m a minister. I lead the prayers of the people, meet with members before surgery, help repair homes for the poor, and constantly look for the presence of God woven through all of life. And yes, I preach on Sundays. I don’t preach because I think I have all the answers. I preach because I believe God cares deeply about the world and there are too many preachers out there saying God is most interested in judging the world.
Once upon a time people respected my vocation. They learned about what I did and said, “Wow” not “Woe.”
I can understand why they now say “Woe” and not “Wow.” It seems like more people are informed by TV preachers than neighborhood pastors. They aren’t connecting with a community of people who are selfless and kind. And they read the same headlines that I do and unfortunately the heroics of Witherspoon, Wilburforce, and King have been replaced with the sordid details of abuse or malfeasance.
I haven’t quite decided how to respond to the depressing, “Ohhhhhh.” Sometimes I’ve responded, “I’m one of the good guys.” But that’s not fair because the vast majority of my colleagues are fine people. Sometimes I just let the “Ohhhhhhhhh” – go. And sometimes I’ve said, “It’s a good life” because my vocation allows me to be a great encouragement to families navigating difficult challenges.
Perhaps the best response to “Ohhhhhhhh” involves living more than anything else. Living a life that honors our better angels and helps another breathe a little easier. The prophet Micah may have described this life best. Thousands of years ago he gave some fine vocational advice. The prophet said, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” Every time I remember his words I think “Ohhhhhhhhhhh” (in a wonderfully positive way). And perhaps if my colleagues and I persist in justice, mercy, and humility, some day when we tell someone we're a minister they'll say, “Ohhhhhhhh.” And we’ll be encouraged (and not check our teeth for spinach).