We sat down and ordered. It was early and I don’t drink coffee, but Ronna did. It was spring of 2014. I was in a lull. The tap dance company that I was directing was having its fair share of challenges, and I felt lost. I knew what I wanted – a full time working tap dance company – I just didn’t know how to get there from where I was.
I don’t remember how the introduction was initially made. What I do remember is a dear friend introducing me to someone who she described as her “heart mom.” I had met my friend Lisa almost a year prior and we connected on similar dispositions as only children, enjoyment of the abstract, and an interest in navigating the intersection of seemingly disparate subjects. It turned out that Lisa’s heart mom, Ronna, wanted to learn how to tap dance, and so began the conversations between myself and Ronna. While the introduction was casual, Lisa later warned me, “I think Ronna can help you, so be nice.”
I made an extra effort to stay in touch with Ronna, and almost six months after our first introduction we managed to connect in person. It was November 2014. I was still in a lull. We agreed to meet for an early morning coffee in the Chelsea area of Manhattan. I’m not an early riser (and no coffee for me) but I said yes.
I arrived early, and immediately found street parking right next to the coffee house. Easily finding street parking during morning rush hour in New York City may be considered a minor miracle. I took it as such. Ronna, an older woman completely evocative of the stereotypical “Jewish mother” but without the Yiddish accent arrived and we took our seats.
We order our respective morning drinks – coffee for Ronna, tea for me – and a few minutes of small talk ensues. Then Ronna shifted gears.
She says, “So this is how this works.” I was listening. She continued, “Everyone already knows what they are supposed to be doing. but very few people give themselves the permission to say it, let alone do it. I’m here to give you the permission to tell me what you are supposed to be doing.”
The next thing I know I hear the words, “I think I’m supposed to become a pastor,” come out of my mouth and I begin to cry.
Some backstory. I grew up in a family of three, just my parents and me. Both my parents are professing believers in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. They had met each other in a very active youth group in Lebanon, but by the time I was a young child my family wasn’t attending any church gathering with regularity. Moving around a lot, and challenging encounters with unhealthy church cultures are likely culprits for this. Nevertheless we did manage to attend a local church service every Christmas and Easter.
Ronna responded calmly. “That’s very good,” she said. “You’ve just told me what you’re supposed to be doing. Now, I don’t work with anyone who doesn’t actually do what they say they are supposed to be doing. So what are you going to do about this?”
For three years before I sat with Ronna I had become a regular attender, been baptized at, and a member of, Graffiti Church. This was my first sustained encounter with the institutional church. I still had no idea what, “I think I’m supposed to become a pastor,” meant for me. But, I thought, maybe my own pastor would know.
Through my tears I got out, “I have no idea what what I said means. I think I have to go talk to my pastor.”
And so the journey began.