The Secret Life of Preachers
Two men set out to do a demographic study of Himalayan blue sheep, but that was just a cover. Their true purpose was to catch a glimpse of the rarely-seen snow leopard, such that the sheep study provided the means for something greater. It gave them a credible reason to go in search of the incredible.
Writer Belden Lane suggests that, blasphemous as it seems, we actually need an alternative purpose behind our vocational drives and ambitions. “In our jobs we look for an ultimacy they can never provide. The holy is seldom captured in the places where we seek it most. While we’re preoccupied with Himalayan blue sheep, it slips onto the periphery of our vision in the furtive silhouette of a great cat.”
This is all the more true for the minister, who can so easily be tricked into thinking the work is God, the ministry is the thing, but with an angle like that, you miss it entirely. Every minister must have a secondary, secret vocation for which the work of ministry is a masquerade of sorts.
You’re an undercover poet with a clerical collar for disguise. You’re a radical truth-teller with ancient scripted words as your starting place. You’re an explorer of God’s unfathomable mystery and absence and silence, who shows up and proclaims presence for a living. They pay you to preach, but you live to listen. You’re on a journey of self-discovery, knowing that the only words worth speaking are the ones that rise up from the core of who you are, but in the meantime you fumble with the public words, forced to speak before you’re ready because you must, and that’s okay. It’s all part of the plan–the credible work you display by day while you play dilettante detective by night, searching the world for clues of the God who seems to be missing.
There is nothing sinister or false in this long-term guise; it is, instead, the only way to truly live, to truly see, to keep your ego detached and your soul intact as you work. It is the only shot you’ve got at ever spotting God, and you’d be one blind fraud if you didn’t make that the thing behind the thing.
 Belden Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscape: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality (Oxford, NY: 1998), 80.