I usually go into town wearing my clerical shirt with the white tab at the neck; this is how people in town are used to seeing me. Occasionally however, if I need something quickly from the store, I will run into town wearing my “around the property” outfit of black pants and large t-shirt.
One morning I quickly ran into town in my informal attire. While wandering the aisles in the store as I searched for an item I began to notice a little old lady following me. I thought “I’m incognito: Why is she following me?” When I turned the corner to go into the next aisle, there she was, waiting for me. “Excuse me,” she asked, “But do I know you?” I thought to myself “How in heaven’s name would I know if you know me?” Then she clued me in about how she might be recognizing me when she asked, “Aren’t you some kind of minister, or something?” When I told her that, yes, I am a minister, the Pastor of St. Mary Magdalene Orthodox church on Fort Howard road, she replied “I thought so, but wasn’t sure. Never saw you in civvies before,” and off she went.
That incident has caused me to reflect upon how we might not recognize one another, or even ourselves, when out of our usual context. This is true not only in regard to clothing or occupation, but also when someone we know begins to change in some way. Sometimes we are made uneasy when others change. Often, we are not sure what to make of the change. How can we know if it is good change or bad? So, like my little old lady, we follow them with our attention trying to figure out what is going on.
Sometimes change in another makes us uneasy. “Uneasy” is not necessarily a bad thing. Uneasy can move us out of an impasse, a rut, or a deadening routine. In January I will be 64, and the older I get the more I see that routines… even while giving us a sense of security and rootedness… can actually lull us into deadness and blindness.
How about if, from now, we make one day a week a day to do at least one thing differently? How about if we make ourselves find a different way to and from work? How about if we make ourselves eat one different dish at supper? How about if we deliberately wear mismatching socks? How about if we embrace change and go into town without our clerical shirt and tab?