Just as the truth was dropped by a pigeon on Steve Shoemaker’s head during a moment of professional aspiration (see “SPLAT”, [published earlier today), it was spoken to me riding the bus after an interview that had gone badly. Steve was a candidate for a deanship. I was one of two finalist candidates for a presidency.
I had left the interview disappointed by my performance, increasingly concerned about the fit, and feeling that it wasn’t right (i.e. it wasn’t “a call”, as we say in the Reformed theological tradition.
With suitcase in hand I got on the bus for the airport and took a lonely seat to lick the raw wounds of damaged pride.
Several stops later a distinguished looking older gentleman dressed in a coat and tie sat down next to me.
“You here for business?” he asked.
“No,” I said, “just visiting.”
“Hmmm… I saw your suitcase. I was just wondering. Usually people dressed like you are corporate executives on a business trip, but they don’t usually ride the bus. What do you do? What’s your line of work?”
“Well…I’m a pastor.”
“Wonderful,” he said, “Where you from?”
“So what brings you to the great city of Chicago?”
“Well, I came for an interview for a college presidency, but it didn’t go well.”
There was a pregnant pause.
“Hmmm…,” said he, “There’s no higher calling than being a pastor. Why would a pastor want to be a president?”
Why, indeed! “Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)
I flew home to my church strangely comforted by the stranger on the bus, freshly called again to be a pastor.
But vanity is a curious disease that’s hard to heal, as Helen Hunt Jackson knew when she wrote in Ramona (1884),
“Wounded vanity knows when it is mortally hurt; and limps off the field, piteous, all disguises thrown away. But pride carries its banner to the last; and fast as it is driven from one field unfurls it in another.”