“Be yourself.”

The saying makes the top ten list for youth ministry advice to teenagers if there ever were such a thing.

I’ve reiterated the message copiously and consistently….

God created you for a purpose. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Your uniqueness is an expression of God’s image that only you can share with the world. If you withhold that uniqueness, we’ll all miss out on a snapshot of God that we were meant to see and understand. Don’t waste your time trying to be someone else. God doesn’t make mistakes (we youth workers were saying it before Lady Gaga did).

But how good am I at listening to my own advice? How good are we, as youth leaders, at listening to our own advice?

When I hang out at youth worker’s conferences and observe the sea of North Face jackets, iPhones, and Rob Bellish dark rimmed glasses–I’m not convinced that we are any better off than our teenagers when it comes to feelings of insecurity and wanting to fit in. None of these things are bad in and of themselves. In fact, I love being youth pastor, dressing like one, and acting like one. There is a cultural component to this–we do have a culture of our own (which I LOVE–I’m one to talk when I have a set of “youth pastor hats” that I’ve been collecting for over ten years…my students know, if they touch my hat they will pay the price).

At the same time, I find myself hiding in insecurity and I was reminded of this as we prayed as a staff at my church today. Insecurity is rooted in fear for me. It’s something that causes me to be horribly indecisive and afraid to reveal my thoughts and ideas.

There are places where I feel safe enough to be unabashedly secure in who I am and let that person live in front of others but most of the time I leave the things that set me a part as different on the back burner hoping no one notices.

But it’s impossible to live that way and be confident in the freedom that comes in Christ.

So today, I want to share a bit more of who I am (mainly as a reminder for myself) because I believe in doing so, it makes space for you to be who you are…apologetically. I realize this could make some uncomfortable but I also realize that this could set someone free. So cheers to our uniqueness and cheers to not phoning in when we’re afraid others might see us for who we are.

They call me Pastor Brooklyn. Who are you? Why don’t you write it here and be proud of the person God has created you to be.

Pastor Brooklyn–the unedited non-professional bio version–
…is a girl and a church leader (what most people know)
Because she is a girl she is able to also bear children. She finds herself coordinating volunteer leaders to cover her group at Rock the Universe to accommodate her pumping schedule. Pastor Brooklyn has an 8 Month old baby that she leaves at home to attend youth events. In the past, she has been known to pump in random places and make up stories about what she was doing to avoid awkward conversations with middle school boys when they don’t understand why she keep disappearing every three or four hours. Pastor Brooklyn is a master at finding freezers. She knows how to improvise, make games up on the spot, and find good reasons to eat a snack. You could find her today carrying three bags to work: the infamous black Ameda bag, the laptop bag, and her purse that changes almost daily. She also likes to coordinate her wallet with her phone cover. Random.

Brooklyn loves to write, she loves ideas, she loves to make believe. Her husband has to remind her sometimes that certain things aren’t real. Roller coasters make her feel like she is flying and it’s probably one of the happiest places in the world for her, next to being with her husband and daughters next to a gradual entry pool beside the ocean.

Her heart was broken for victims of injustice when she was about 15 years old and that moment has guided much of her ministry ever since. She can be proud and stubborn, but there is a lot that makes her humble. If she could have music playing everywhere she went she’d prefer it. Life is better with music. Brooklyn loves history and old things. She is a nostalgic person and loves to laugh. Her favorite part of the week is after Wednesday night youth group when she can sit on the couch watching comedy and laughing with her husband.

She loses things and forgets toll money EVERY time she takes a group somewhere. She pretends she can do it all but can be found crying in the shower after long weekends or stressful meetings. There are moments when she thinks everything is going to explode and it will be all her fault. She knows this would never be true but the feelings are there sometimes. She believes with all of her heart that she is being renewed and transformed every day into a more visible image of the Son. She loves youth ministry and her husband has given up more than she can ever account for so that she can follow this dream.

She wants to live in the big city and have a historic home in the suburbs–these are conflicting desires–especially when she weighs them with a desire, much like Saint Francis of Assisi, to get rid of everything to be free to do anything for God. There is so much to her that people can’t see. She wants to be herself more than anything so her daughters can have the same freedom as they grow up…and this is only a glimpse.

I’m learning not to hide my differences but to consider them pure joy. What makes you’re voice unique? I hope you’re sharing your ever evolving story somewhere too.

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