The list of things they should have taught me in seminary is a seriously LONG list. Today's topic refers to a skill that I acquired since I began in ministry about four years ago. At the time, I didn't realize I would need this skill. I knew what it was, and I had seen excellent examples of it over time, especially on television. But I knew I wasn't cool enough or controlled enough to pull it off. So I just settled for being myself and letting things happen as they did.
But when I got into ministry, I discovered just how much I would need to have a good "poker face." Now let me be clear: I am NOT saying that I need to know how to gamble in order to be a minister. That would be a pretty absurd comment to make, especially to my Christian sisters and brothers who know of the danger and the lure of gambling. I'm not saying that at all.
I am referring to that cool look that gamblers get, especially during a game of high-stakes poker, in which the gambler's face is cool, unreadable, and calm. I never had that in my life - I am too emotional and too temperamental - but it is a necessary skill for ministry.
Let me explain.
When someone comes to see the pastor, and that person is VERY upset, the pastor cannot let emotion rule the day. The pastor needs to be the calmest voice in the conversation.
When things go wrong in a church - and believe me, it's always SOMETHING! - the last face that needs to show panic or concern or worry is the pastor's face.
When the forces of evil arrive - and most times the pastor won't see them coming - the pastor has to be as cool as those old west heroes that I love on television and the movies. Because the pastor just might need to make a stand, and everyone needs to see that the pastor is cool.
So that's why a good poker face is a requirement for ministry.
Since I've been in this job, I have discovered that my poker face has gotten a LOT better. I am still miles from being cool, but I can keep a blank face (or at least an un-angry face) pretty easily. I have had folks tell me they couldn't believe I didn't react to this situation or that situation without losing it. Often I praise God that only He and I seem to know how upset I am.
And of course, other times, it fails me completely. I have been easy to read for most of my life, so why should it change quickly or easily?
Still...I think back to my younger days when I played poker with my friends. I usually got beat by them because they knew the game much better than I did. But I would love to sit down with those old friends and have another go at the game.
Something tells me they might be a little surprised...
[Romans 12:2] Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.