A few months after I retired, I stood by my mailbox talking with a neighbor. He'd had a problem with alcohol once but hadn't taken a drink for years.
"When you were a minister--" he began. Then he stopped and corrected himself. "That's not right. You'll always be a minister. Just like I'll always be an alcoholic."
That's a strange analogy, I thought. Does he think I'm struggling every day with a compulsion to preach sermons, pray at public gatherings, and attend committee meetings?
I'm not. I'll never need to attend a Clergy Anonymous group.
I had a better analogy. I considered myself a minister the same way that I was a soldier when I was young. I wasn't a hero, but neither did I disgrace myself. Being in the army was something I was called to do. I did it as well as I could.
But I never became a soldier. It didn't define who I was. Soldiers were the thirty-year professionals who had no life outside the army. I was a civilian who did a soldier's job. When the job was over, I went on to something ...1