I saw my pastor wearing purple Chucks … so I bought purple Chucks.
My pastor’s name is Renée. Her church has been a huge part of my life for nine years, and its incredible community is one of the things I’ve missed most moving away for seminary.
Renée was the first woman I saw preach regularly on Sunday mornings. Before meeting her, I knew female pastors existed — I certainly knew that I supported the idea theologically — but I had never actually been to a church where women preached more often than a few special occasions. It was incredible. It would be hard to understate how impactful it was for me to see her at the pulpit week after week, to learn more about Christ through her.
Anyway, last year Renée bought these purple Chucks, and I thought they were some of the coolest shoes I’ve ever seen. I went to look for them at DSW, where she got hers, but they were out. So I asked for these for Christmas and they are wonderful, as expected.
Academia is an inherently competitive space, and it’s been an odd fit for me – since I am one of far less than half of my campus who has zero desire to pursue a PhD. I am in seminary because I want to be in ministry. I am learning about church history, systematic theology, spending way too many hours a week on Greek – because I want to use those things to teach, encourage, sharpen, and experience life together with God’s people. With everyone so focused on grades and academic performance, sometimes that gets lost. I forget why I am actually here in the first place.
Wearing purple Chucks like Renée’s is a nice reminder that none of this is about me. I’m here because the world needs more leaders like Renée, like Ineliz, like Alison, like Sharon, like Tracy. Leaders like Derek, like Marv, like Corey, like James B. The world needs leaders who care about people and who operate with integrity, even when if it takes longer and doesn’t save the company as much money as it could have.
I decided I wanted to go to seminary after my job shifted significantly, and I found that I was faced with a pretty clear option, I could either:
A. Keep chasing down my dream print magazine editor career, recognizing that magazines would likely be cut and I may have to hop from one job to another depending on who had funding for a magazine.
B. I could set aside my dream of seeing my name and photo in print on some beautiful “From the Editor” page each issue and I could start working towards gaining the skills, training, and credentials that could allow me to be a leader like Renée. A leader who cares deeply about people, who invests in people, and who uses whatever influence they have in their sphere of leadership to live for Christ and encourage other people to do the same.
I have been so deeply impacted by the Alisons, the Dereks, the Inelizs in my life – leaders who have invested in me and so many other people, encouraging us, taking a chance on us, and assuring us of how skilled and valuable we are, even when we don’t quite feel like it.
Instead of being outraged when I experienced Christian spaces where leaders are not like this — I want to be in the places of leadership that can speak against that. I have been encouraged and invested in by so many amazing Christian leaders, and I’ve had the opportunity to lead or be a part of exciting projects because of them.
But instead of just saying thank you, adding it to my resume, and moving on, I want to start being the one to invest in other people.
In grad school, which is so deeply concerned with your CV and list of accomplishments, wearing my purple Chucks reminds me that academia’s priorities aren’t God’s priorities. I love having the opportunity to be in school again, and to get to focus on studying and learning about ministry and Christian theology full-time.
But I don’t want to lose the sense of why I am here in the first place. Right now, I don’t have the training, wisdom, and experience to walk through the world in Renée‘s shoes, or Alison’s, definitely not Ineliz’s … but I want to learn. I want to invest in living into my skills and gifts the best that I can, so that I can pick up the baton and live my life in a way that invests in others in some of the ways that they had each invested in me.
Anyway, I saw my pastor wearing purple Chucks so I bought purple Chucks.