Post Author: Charlotte LaForest
We don’t know each other well, but we’ve been chatting for awhile, maybe at a party, or at a playdate for our kids.
The subject of what we do for a living hasn’t come up yet, and we’re talking easily about other things. But then the time comes when we would normally talk about what we do for work and I don’t bring it up. You might wonder if it’s because I don’t work, whether I’m a stay at home mom or unemployed, so you think maybe you shouldn’t bring it up. But I can tell you want to tell me what you do for work and so I ask.
My hesitation is not because I don’t want to know what you do for work—I really do—but because I don’t want to answer it back. It’s not that I’m embarrassed by what I do for a living—quite the opposite, in fact—it’s just that once I tell you that I’m a priest, everything about our conversation is going to change.
The first thing you’ll do is apologize for swearing.
(It’s ok! I have actually heard those words before. In fact, I’ve even said them!)
You start scanning my face to see whether I’m judging everything you do.
Then you worry you’re offending me with things you say.
You start to wonder if you can ask me all the questions you suddenly have. And sometimes you ask. And I try to answer them honestly, usually refraining from the snarky ways I’d actually like to answer:
Do women priests even exist?
(Would you believe me if I told you I’m actually a hologram?)
Are you allowed to have sex?
(No. My three children sprung from my head like the children of Zeus!)
You might feel awkward talking about what I do for living at all and so you ask quickly what my husband does for a living. You learn he’s a teacher, and suddenly we have lots of things to talk about. Everyone likes talking about teachers. The conversation flows on from there.
But then, sometimes….
You ask me about God.
Or you tell me about what faith has meant to you over the course of your life, from sweet memories of a childhood spent in church to vulnerability and openness about the ways the church has hurt you.
You tell me about loved ones who have died or who are very sick and ask me to pray for them. Sometimes you even let me pray with you.
Sometimes you ask me to share the story of how God called me into this role.
And at these times, I have the chance to tell you about God’s love, about how it’s changed my life, and the lives of so many people I know and work with every day.
Maybe you’re afraid I’m going to try to convert you or guilt you into going to church, but neither of those is going to happen. I’m just as happy to be talking with you as I was before you found out what I do for a living.
The truth is, I’ll take all the awkward questions you’ve got for a chance to talk about what’s real and important to you. I dread the awkwardness of the moment you learn that I’m a priest and I’ll try to prolong those moments before you find out, but I’m learning to name it gracefully sooner in the conversation. Because I love what I do for a living.
Even if the first few moments after I tell you are a bit awkward, the ones after that have potential to be the some of the holiest moments of my day.
The Rev. Charlotte LaForest is an Episcopal priest living and working in Connecticut. Charlotte and her husband Eric live on campus at the boarding school where Eric works, and have three children, August (born in 2014) and twins Rowan and Evelyn (born in 2017), as well as a slobbery dog named Whitman. Charlotte loves reading, knitting, fancy coffee, and going on family walks.
Image by: kaboompics
Used with permission