In the Summer of 2013 I found myself in a position where for so long I had been working towards finding funding from a donor for the church plant and when God gave us that, everything went public. The 48 hours afterwards were exciting, but then I felt between two worlds. I was still a youth pastor for Redeemer and I was now laboring as a Church Planter for Manhattan. I was torn between these two mentalities and identities. What was hard to keep in focus was that neither of these identities were my true identity. That as a Child of God.
I am a damned sinner destined for glory because of my gracious savior. If I can know that in my heart moment by moment then life can be lived well. If not, I’ll waste it.
So as I thought about my primary identifier I also thought about what else identifies me, this is my list of identities I recognize in myself:
Christian: I wasn’t born with this identity, I was reborn with it. This is my primary and most important identifier. The rest could disappear and so long as I had this one still I’m ok. This is the one that will last through eternity, the one that assures the forgiveness of my sin and my place in the family of God forever. It means most basically that Jesus bought me with his own life. He has given me faith to believe that Jesus is my savior and I am now a follower of Jesus, who is my king.
Man: I have male anatomy and I was made by God to show forth masculine characteristics as God, and not culture, defines them. This provides me a role in marriage, in society, in the church, in relation to women and other men. It’s an identity my culture wants to erase and one which my culture leads me to often feel shame for, but it is a God given identity that goes beyond mere anatomy. It means I must lead in places God has placed me, it means I must protect those who can’t protect themselves and offer care and compassion to those who need it.
Son: I am the son of Henry Harrison Hough from Charleston, Missouri. I am also the son of Vicki Sue Anderson from Toledo, Ohio. My dad is a traveling speaker who uses labradors as a visual illustration for obedience. My mother has been a sixth grade English teacher since I myself was in the sixth grade.
Brother: I have two older brothers who I love deeply. I am often saddened by the distance between us both physically and relationally. I am a brother which ties me to these guys for the rest of our lives no matter how alike or different we are. They are both medical doctors making me the least educated child with my M.Div. Truth is I’m secretly (not so secret anymore) really impressed by them being doctors.
Step Brother: I also have a fantastic step brother named Matt. He’s a gifted musician and uses his gifts to assist the people of God with worship in Houston. He challenged my next identity at first and I resented him for it, but quickly came around to consider him a true brother despite my placing him in a separate identifier.
Youngest: I am the youngest of three boys. I grew up the youngest which gave me the nurturing experience of being the youngest. That means I couldn’t tie my shoe until like 3rd grade, wet the bed way too long, learned about sex before my peers and basically everyone did everything for me most of my life leaving me forever less capable of functioning like an adult. My job as the youngest was very simple: Be funny and tattle on people.
Husband: This is one my favorite identifiers. I am the husband of Laura Elaine Hough, the most amazing girl I’ve ever met. We aren’t big on public expression of affection for each other cause that sort of thing makes people gag and if I’m honest when people gush about their spouse on Facebook I question how real the words are. Now to break my own rule, I love Laura soooo much, I love being her husband because she is everything I dreamed a wife could be and I really mean that. As a husband I am called to care for my wife, to lead her and nourish her, to protect her and provide for her. She makes all my husband responsibilities an absolute joy to fulfill. One of the best bits of advice I can give is marry well. Marry a sibling in Christ (the “in Christ” distinction is important unless you’re in Arkansas) and walk through life together.
Father: We have three children. Beckham, Sadie Piper and Berkley Boo. Being a father is hard. It means playing games that just aren’t fun (and some which are), it means disciplining and nurturing when already tired. It means discipleship of a child whose ability to think and interact is changing nearly every day. Being a father is fulfilling though, I love to talk with them and care for them and laugh at them; and hugs from a child are pretty much the greatest thing ever. I remember the joy of being a father when I come home and the crazies run to me with huge hugs.
Hough – Family name means something. With it come positives and negatives, it’s a shared identity that, people assume I’m like others who also are identified as Houghs. My own life also serves to redefine the name going forward. I like the name, I liked in sports being called exclusively Hough, even most of the girls I knew used to call me just Hough. It connected me to Charlie Hough which gave me a love for the Knuckleball and it now connects us to Julianne Hough and Derek Hough who are dancers and actors.
Ex Youth Pastor: This identifier is often one of a cheesy guy with too much caffeine. It doesn’t garner much respect from anyone and seen by some as the bane of the church today. I however found it was a fantastic role to serve the Kingdom of God. Though it Laura and I have made so many great relationships with students and families and seen them grow and mature. There is such joy in this that though I’ve never loved the title and prefer the role we serve in today I do miss the opportunity to have this role in the lives of students and families at Redeemer. As time has gone by I’ve also found this to be one of the more heartbreaking identifiers as we see students we care about grow up and struggle.
Teacher: I only half own up to this title. On our second day in Kansas I was given two different classes to teach, that year it was 7th and 8th grade Bible. I taught every year since then. My last year I only taught four days a week, two 75 minute classes, two 50 minute classes. Teaching is both miserable and fantastic. Trying to teach students who don’t care at all because of apathy or only care about their grade is depressing. But seeing some of those same students come alive and care or teaching those who wish to learn is an absolute rush. It’s been one of the more time consuming parts of my life for seven years, but I was glad to have the experience and I think it put my seminary training to good use.
Astros Fan: This is one of the dumber identifiers. I am a fan of the Houston Astros. In fact my earliest memories include cheering for the bright rainbow version of the Astros. It is a memory of mine connected to my grandfather who like the Astros as well. Currently being an astros fan is a bit embarrassing with how bad they are, but they are my team and I love to root for them. They have a number of Christians on the team which make me all the more excited to see these guys mature as players and people.
Soccer Fan: This used to put me in a tiny little sub group of people, but each year the number of soccer fans seems to grow. I follow and support the Houston Dynamo, Sporting Kansas City, Manchester United and still have a soft spot for FC Dallas. I miss playing the game.
Bicyclist: I grew up riding bikes, but I’m really in the seventh year since rediscovering the joy of bicycling. I like to ride for adventure, not sport which is why I call myself a bicyclist and not a cyclist. I also refer to my Bicycle as a Country Cross Bike and it has a name. You will never find spandex on me, that’s my way of showing love for neighbor. I love bicycling and find it to be like therapy to just get out and ride.
Counting Crows Fan: This one honestly doesn’t seem to fit me. I don’t really like rock music, but I can sing along to nearly every song the Counting Crows have ever performed. I discovered them in High School and then rediscovered them in college and have been obsessed ever since.
Obsessive: I tend to get obsessive about subjects or products or teams or food and then learn everything there is to learn about them before moving on to something else. I wish this wasn’t how I functioned, but it is. I used to think everyone functioned this way until Tony Felich helped me understand I’m messed up.
Texan: This is my nationality. Some claim their Irish or Italian or Russian ancestry, ours is Texan. I’m not sure my children realize it isn’t really a nation. Seriously. To be fair, it was a country from 1836 to 1845 and it has functioned like a country to this day with it’s own electric grid and general autonomy so I feel quite justified in this. I am one of those people who loves America, but really I am a Texan first and foremost. However, we love being missionaries to the United States and have no intentions of every returning to the homeland.
Weird: I think most people are weird and like the title of being such. So the question isn’t so much are you weird, but how are you weird? You learn this from what people comment about you. Wearing soccer socks on Sundays under my nice pants I’ve been told is weird. Putting half and half with sweetener in my tea is apparently not a normal practice. Wandering around town at times in a Monk Robe is apparently not normal. Also the joy I get from awkward situations I’ve been told is a little strange. So that’s that.
Church Planter: This is a new identifier, like youth pastor it has a bunch of cheesy associations with it that I’ll try to avoid. Like I won’t call you “buddy” or tell you how we need to “just love on people” or explain how we need to “live incarnational lives” because let’s be honest, unless you start as God you can’t come down as a man. I do like the title though, the work it points to is one of amazing purpose and value for the town of Manhattan and the kingdom of God. I love it because it puts us in a place of utter dependence on God to provide in every way. It’s scary and I often feel unskilled for this role and ill equipped for this role, but it is an identification I’m excited to continue to grow into.
Pastor: This is the day to day function of a church planter. It’s administration, and serving, it’s praying for the congregation and those we hope God will work salvation in. It’s making bulletins and preparing sermons. It’s lonely at times, it comes with a weight that I never understood as an assistant pastor, although I used to think I understood. It’s constant second guessing, it’s depressing when people under our care struggle. It’s sweet fellowship with those who minister along side us.
I love to know other people’s identifiers, if you have put them down in writing let me know, I’d love to read them.