I have chosen a black sheep as my mascot.
Typically, when that term is used to describe a person, it suggests they are a problem child, they don’t really fit in, and they are usually a bit of an oddball and a ne’er-do-well. I check all those boxes, both before and after my conversion. Some things God doesn’t change about you. Some things are hard-wired.
Early in my life I mercilessly teased about my funny name, my given name was Pieter Kok, and though that was a relatively common name in the Netherlands (where I was born), it wasn’t so common here in the states. Here it was pronounced, Peter Cock, and let’s just say, the first days of elementary school and Junior High were brutal. I changed my name to Piet Van Waarde (a shortened-form of my mom’s maiden name) when I got married. I hoped to spare my kids some of the heartache I experienced.
So, yeah, never really fit in as a kid.
There was a time where I wished it were different, where I fit in more easily. In fact, a good part of the my drug usage in high school was probably a product of just wanting to fit in somewhere – and my druggie friends didn’t really care about my last name. If I was in for the party they were cool with me. We were all misfits of sorts.
Eventually, my drug usage led to a whole new set of more serious issues, and through a series of God-ordained twists and turns, I had a spiritual transformation. The faith I grew up around became real to me, and as cliche as it might sound, Jesus really did change my life. My move into ministry, was a very straight forward one. If Jesus could change me, why wouldn’t I want to try and give my life to helping other people discover what had been so helpful to me? I have been less than perfect at it, but it has led to the most meaningful life I could have ever imagined.
Thing is, I never really fit in as a pastor either
Over time, I’ve become OK with that reality. Through the twists and turns of my ministerial life, I have become more committed to my faith and I still love helping people stay strong in theirs. I also have several tattoos and an earring. I will cuss upon occasion and not apologize for it. I write poetry and I like rock and roll music. I ride Harley Davidson motorcycles. I find truth in the Bible and in nature. So, I don’t fit very well in any religious box.
Interestingly that has helped me relate fairly easily with others who don’t fit very well in their chosen professions, families, neighborhoods – especially those who have trouble making sense of the ins/outs of typical church life. I’ve discovered that there are many really good people who feel an awful lot like black sheep themselves, and as a fellow one, we might have more in common than you think.
If you think it might be helpful, let’s set up a time to chat….