As most of you probably already know, I moved from Frisco Texas to Norman Oklahoma in October. Norman is just north of Edmond OK where my family lives. I came here to help take care of my mother who suffered from an aneurysm and a stroke nearly two years ago. Her condition is stable, yet she is mentally and physically incapacitated.
I was very conflicted about the move. While I knew that my family desperately needed me for encouragement and support, Texas had become my home. I had been there for nearly ten years, arriving late in 98′ to enter seminary. Texas presented me with a new life. All four of my kids are Texans.That is where I received my theological training at Dallas Seminary. It was where I was ordained at Stonebriar Community Church. It was where I pastored over a flock entrusted to me for six years at the same church. It was where I began The Theology Program and where Reclaiming the Mind Ministries had its birth. They trust me in Texas. It was where I became a man of God. It was were I was really a pastor.
Oklahoma, on the other hand, was a closet. In that closet lay insecurity, fear, timidity, and shame. It is a closet linked with my old life of a relentless pursuit of . . . (ahem), other things. It was the place I grew up. It is the place where people know better. They know the real Michael Patton.
When I began to pursue what I felt was my call to ministry, I know what people thought. “Oh, Michael Patton—going to be a man of God now? A minister? Riiiggghhhhttt.” I could see it in their eyes, “Who died and left such a desperate vacancy that Michael Patton has to fill it?” “We will see. We know who you really are.” No one ever said these things, but this is what I thought they were thinking. Could it be a guilty conscience? Could it be insecurity in my call? Could it be that my compulsive personality always goes to such extremes and this is compensation for my former life? Not sure.
I have always sensed a trepidation about my returns to Oklahoma. During visits before our family tragedies, I was always relieved to get back to Texas. While in Oklahoma people would treat me as a pastor. This I was. “Michael, do you want to pray before we eat?” Well, no not really. I really did not. Why? I don’t know. Fear? Guilt? A deep enter sense that they would find me out? Was I a charlatan?
Praying around my father has always been the worst. I felt like an either-year-old kid again. Scared and with a scattered mind, I would do my best to say something spiritual before a meal. Not to God, but to my dad. I know. I will just pray like my mom did. But dad always gave her a hard time for her prayers. It is better if I just stay silent. Please don’t ask me to pray. Please don’t suppose that I have anything spiritual to say simply because I went to seminary and am a pastor. I am not a pastor here.
Now I am back in Oklahoma permanently. My dad morns each day for my mother and sister. My family looks to me for support. Why do I feel so young and immature? Can I be a pastor in Oklahoma? Why does crossing the Red River seem to remove my ordination?