Who’s Your Redheaded Youth Pastor? 

I’m from northern Minnesota where people are stoic and reserved. More walk. Less talk. In fact no talk is also fine and acceptable, often preferable. I’ve driven hours in a car with fellow Minnesotans, nobody saying a word the entire way. Complete comfort. Awkward silence is just called silence where I’m from. 

So when my small-town church hired a redheaded youth pastor from Texas, it threw a whole wrench in the system. He didn’t know the rules. Didn’t know you weren’t supposed to say what you were thinking, especially what you were feeling. That’s a double whammy. You could get thrown in jail for that. 

But nobody really told him because that isn’t something we would do. What we did do is collectively think this and keep it in the privacy of our own minds, where thoughts belong.

I’m sure glad we didn’t tell him either, because I’ll tell you what . . . when you’re in the 10th grade — having just committed social suicide by quitting ice hockey, with an identity up for grabs, and you’re learning the guitar and needing somebody to believe in you — then I’ve found that an expressive redheaded youth pastor from Texas is pretty much the best thing you could ask for. 

I only knew three chords and “Lord I Lift Your Name on High,” but he made me believe I was the next Eddie Van Halen. He saw something in me and made me feel it, too — that if I kept working hard, I had a shot at being a real musician. 

I bring all this up because whoever you are and whatever you’re doing, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to make it out there without your own redheaded youth pastor from Texas. Someone who believes in you and knows you have what it takes. Preferably this person is not your mom. If you have or have had someone (and there can be many along the journey) I know you feel as fortunate as I do. But if you don’t, here’s to that person finding you soon, while in the meantime you keep working hard and honing your craft!


P.S. In a roundabout way, this is a thank-you note to Nathanael “Nato” Johnson for being there for me when I was 16.