The God Hat

img_1417I wear a God Hat.

No, I don’t think I’m God. The God Hat has less to do with how I see myself than how others see me, what others expect of me because of my faith.

The reactions of people to the God Hat often determine our relationship afterward.

When I would coach my kids’ soccer teams, I’d end up having conversations with parents of other kids on the team and eventually The Question would be asked: “So, what do you do for a living?” And when I said, “I’m a pastor,” all of a sudden they would see the God Hat on my head.

For some people, seeing that pastoral God Hat created a sense of identification with me. “Hey, that’s great! I go to church at ….” We were fellow Christians and my God Hat enabled them to put on their God Hats as well.

For some people, seeing my God Hat caused them to clam up. I could see a visible change on their faces. They wanted nothing to do with religion and the God Hat shut down our conversation.

At least, it did for far too many years. I didn’t know what to do with their quickly closed faces, so I’d slip off the God Hat with a joke or a subject change. Later on, I realized those closed faces were actually an invitation of sorts. So, I learned to say, “It looks like you’ve had a negative experience with pastors. I’m sorry about that. I’ll try not to be that guy. Would you mind telling me about it?”

The God Hat can become an opportunity to address past spiritual hurts or current fears of being judged and to move toward some potential healing.

As a chaplain, I’ve worn my God Hat more blatantly. Instead of waiting for people to ask me, I tell them I’m a chaplain up front.

For some people, a chaplain is the last person they want to talk with and the God Hat is a turn-off. But for many people, having someone in the room who is wearing the God Hat is a source of comfort and hope.

I may not be God himself, but when I’m wearing the God Hat, people have a sense of the presence of God with them. And when life gets rough, most people are glad to have someone wearing the God Hat around.

Pastors and chaplains have big God Hats. But they’re not the only ones to wear them. Anyone who has any kind of faith in God has a God Hat of some shape or size. The question is: How do we wear them? And how do we engage with those who react against them?

We can be overly bold and obnoxiously in-your-face with it. We can be overly timid and never wear it at all. Or we can become comfortable with ourselves and with our faith and wear it with a unique mix of earnestness and humility, honestly expressing both our deep-seated allegiance to God and our neighborliness to those who struggle with people of faith for a multitude of reasons. Figuring out that third option requires a creativity the first two don’t require.

In our desire to love God with all of our everything, we wear the God Hat. But in our desire to love our neighbors as ourselves, there are so many nuances to consider. How might wearing it be helpful? Hurtful? Confusing? Enlightening?

The most important thing is to wear the God Hat, knowing it affects everything.

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