As someone who is still a new minister, I'm musing today on the concept of the vocation of Christian ministry and 'real life experience'. Somewhere else, there was some comment on whether or not ministers have 'real life experience' and whether or not this was a good or necessary thing.
Up until becoming a minister, my life experience was probably what I'd call 'age appropriate'. I was doing the same things as many people in their late 40s were doing. We married late and didn't have children, so I wasn't seeing them off to university, but we were both working at jobs where we had some years of experience and we were trying to pay off our mortgage, etc., etc.
Now that I'm a minister, I've had a different set of experiences. I've sat with a dead body. I've visited someone a day before their death. I regularly visit nursing homes where it's difficult to communicate with people because of the illnesses they have (either physical or mental incapacity). People show me their surgery scars, their leg-ulcers and tell me about their incontinence. Many people share the hurts of their lives, their worries, their disappointments, their anger and their rage. Somehow, these 'negative' feelings tend to outweigh the 'positive' ones in quantity, but I'd like to think that it's because people feel safe telling me this sort of thing; still, it's not always easy to listen to large quantities of peoples' problems.
My short experience as a minister has made me even more aware of the fagility of human life and the love and grace of God.
I'm genuinely at a loss to believe that what I've experienced so far as a minister is not 'Real Life'. In fact, I suspect it's more 'Real Life' than my previous experience.