Yesterday while serving in the Life Enrichment Center, a wonderful young woman paid me the biggest complement. She said when she realized I was a natural (my hair, that is) who chooses to flat-iron like she does, it was a small thing but it made her say, "She's just like us!" I can't tell you exactly why that was so meaningful to me, but it was. As preachers we become public figures by default, whether we want to or not. This is especially true for those of us who serve larger congregations at (dare I say) mega-churches. People see you on the pulpit and experience you praying, reading scripture, and on occasion preaching, but they don't always have the opportunity to get up close. There is not always the chance to interact personally no matter how long you hang around after service. I found her revelation particularly ironic because I have been criticized (although not to my face) for I guess not looking enough like some expect a preacher should. I've been talked about by traditionalists for wearing hoop earrings, 4 inch heels, and on occasion big hair in the pulpit. Now let's be clear, I'm always a class act and there is never anything the slightest bit "risqué" about my appearance. I tend to wax on the more edgy and stylish end of moderately conservative at best. Yet there are those who take issue with that, or maybe they simply take issue with the fact that I walk in it confidently. One of my male colleagues even harshly criticized me because I jokingly mentioned my hair while preaching. He told me, "No one cares about your hair." Well boo, apparently you are wrong because a whole host of women, young and old, have connected with me because of the fact that I'm natural (and some of the brothers too). But I digress.
The point is that it is amazing how something so simple as just being yourself can be offensive to some, yet it is the very thing that God uses to draw others to you and ultimately closer to Him. We always look at people we admire or we feel have accomplished great things, thinking that they are so different from us. And while it's true that a power dynamic does indeed exist when you are in leadership, I choose not to hide behind it and to the best of my ability I try to share my authentic self with the people I serve. So my response to that young sista was, "Yes, I am. Behind the robe and behind the pulpit, I am a girl just like you."