Where does the pastor, and nearly every one I’ve met has struggles with this one, find his or her identity? John Frye, in Jesus the Pastor, weaves together one big biblical idea with personal realities to frame a solid answer to the formation of pastoral identity.
First, he asks, as his custom in his book, where did Jesus get his identity? He got it, he answers, in God and in the promises of God. The theme of this chp is found on p. 50: “We live best by promises, not by prescriptions or principles.” Jesus lived in the Father and in the Father’s promises.
Second, John suggests we need to learn to find our identity in God. Now let’s be honest here: there are few pastors who haven’t found many a day difficult to face, and during that day wondered who they were and what they were called to do. John suggests pastors need to learn to “ignore with a sovereign indifference” what matters most to others and to learn to let God shape who we are.
In this chp John suggests a new idea for “promise”: promise, on p. 56, is defined as “an active divine word meeting us in the chaos of the present moment and propelling us with strategic, ordered, and empowered purpose into the next moment, the next hour, week, lifetime.” And, “In God’s inexorable presence the little idea called ‘me’ dies and God’s idea of ‘me’ comes into being” (57).
John tells a powerful story of how he discovered his identity in God after carrying an unexamined, but growing, burden of his parents divorce and his father’s pain. And he’s learned that this Grand Canyon of pain from his past can be filled by God’s love and grace, and he’s learned that he can pass on that love of God to others.
Pastors, he suggests, need to learn this and remind themselves of it regularly.