I am laughing at myself right now. Really.
It’s a reminder that what anyone is experiencing at any one time is their reality, and their reality is a truth we should not ever attempt to take that away from them or interpret it for them, even in consolation or comfort. Or in simple words, feelings are not good or bad, they simply are — and do not tell me/others how to feel (or a reminder that I cannot tell others how to feel).
The reason I am laughing is because this place is HARD sometimes. Really hard. I don’t think anyone that has not gone through it can understand how intense it is. We often question why we are here even while knowing that this is exactly the time and place we are supposed to be in. We live with that tension daily as we question the wisdom of, in our case, having both parents attend full-time graduate school (plus the extra requirements of seminary); living in community and yet also commuting; stepping away from our at least seemingly safe middle-class existence; and stepping into not merely the constant stress of homework, deadlines and balancing school, family and friends but also the really big questions we encounter daily here. Can we make a confession of faith — really deep and meaningful without stepping at least on the edges of heresy? Any yet how can we explore deeply without touching heresy? (We can’t and we’re not supposed to, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t create tension in many situations.) And more importantly for me — what do those confessions of faith have to do with my life? intersect with my past as well as my present? impact my future — self and ministry?
I am here publicly admitting that today I had a few hours where I seriously wanted with all my being to give up living in that tension. I wanted nothing better to retreat back into a comfortable little hole and find a nice group of agreeable others to live out my life with. Of course in practical terms, I’m committed for the semester (nice how that works, eh). And after a good cry (oh how that works! what a blessing!), I stopped and heard the voice again.
That voice that in my words says to me “stop being selfish; it isn’t all about you; be with my people, the people of God, all people, if you need to be an example of someone going through “hell” than just be it!” (remember this is just a little voice I hear; not claiming any authority — other than to gently push me back where I belong)
Oh, back to why I am laughing at myself. See, how bad can it really be when even in my own personal terms it is not that bad. My own personal comparison is now over ten years ago when my daughter Emily Lin died. Yes, I had lots of bad things happen since then — some extremely dark “hellish” things even and some, like my auto-immune illness, merely challenging bumps on the road because to me everything is in comparison to that day (I have other really glorious days of comparison too), and so compared to the day my daughter died and then weeks and months of darkness that followed (and still at times lingers), I can laugh at today and other days when I question why it is SO hard.
And yet that doesn’t take the difficulty away. It’s still hard. I can’t compare griefs and struggles of others as each moment is valid and real. Today I am reminding myself to be gentle and not compare my own griefs and struggles. And again there is something more (there always is). If it is not about me when it comes to serving the people of God, then is it not about me in multiple other ways too?
We struggle a lot with the problem of pain here (theodicy). It usually isn’t the primary topic, but the underlying background as we discuss a particular theology (at least at this point in our seminary education). For example if one says certain things about creation or a loving God, there is the challenge immediately on how that statement is taken in light of certain situations of pain and suffering — personal or universal. And just to clarify I am not taking on this topic here in this personal reflection post! I am simply admitting that part of me wants to scream out — must it be a problem. Is this our own cultural context getting in the way? I am only asking in the same way I asked questions when my daughter died and continue to ask questions daily. Why must we insist on understanding everything? I like the questions “why?” I think it’s a good question even when there is not an answer.
The sun has come out now, and I have just enough time before my next class for a very short walk and possibly time to finish a bit of the reading for said class (because again it has been one of those days/weeks/months) as I try to balance not merely family and school time, but where I am to fully live out my life as a child of God each moment …
As I walk I will ponder more than a few things, and hopefully many I will continue to share here (for my own reflection purposes if nothing else)
–gratitude for the community that surrounds me in reality and in spirit
–why I do “extra” things that are not required (workshops such as Stephen Ministry & Bridges out of Poverty, hours of work on The Persistent Voice blog, birthday parties, quiet visits with friends, letting my daughter fall asleep on my lap nearly every night while Shawn reads from the Bible, driving 6+ round-trip for my daughter’s band concert, … oh there is a reason and it sustains me)
–What is Diaconal Ministry anyway
–How/Why do I feel called to pastoral care ministry when I do NOT feel called to be a pastor to a church congregation
–Why do I feel so strongly that I must be in the world, ministering to the world, when I want nothing more than to cloister myself? (although I associate that word with monastic communities and the more I learn about them throughout history the more I realize that they were very engaged in the world and in the doing of diaconal ministry … there is something in that for me to reflect on)
–How do I make my other vows (marriage, baptismal) primary while preparing to and then committing to serve both the church and the world?
OK, enough for today … anyone that stuck with me to the end is someone I should probably be in conversation with regularly, so leave a comment and let me know your thoughts and questions!