Before we get started, if you’ve not yet heard of Lent Madness, go check it out. It is without a doubt one of the funniest things I’ve encountered—and, shockingly, I’m learning a ton from it, as well.
I hope you’ve survived the first full week of Lent in one piece, Reader. I think I have—there was definitely some question around the middle of the week, and then yesterday was awful because my students…oh, my students. They make me sad about my life, and certain about my decision to leave teaching, which makes me sadder. And I may or may not get into fisticuffs with my teaching partner by the end of the term, which can’t come soon enough.
And these are very Lenten thoughts, right? Sigh. It is hard to be meditative and holy-oriented and such when the wilderness is so very, well, wild. It is filled with headaches, literal and metaphorical, and moments when I eat a meat other than fish on Friday because I’m a guest at another person’s house, and really painful truths of having to go back and apologize to Talkative because snapping at him isn’t going to change my classroom dynamic. The wilderness is dusty, and frustrating, and exhausting.
Interpreter credits me with more savvy in conversation than I actually possess, but he is sharp enough to call me on a lot of times when we get near something I simply don’t want to acknowledge. I’m pretty good at misdirection when talking with others; I’ve honed the skill over years and years, you see. It’s rare that I can’t turn someone back to another topic they like talking about rather than getting into something about me or my life. I’m trying to do it less, but it’s kind of subconscious now. So when I come to this blog, Reader, this moment of honesty with you prompted by God, and I start complaining about the wilderness instead of saying anything about me in it, I realize I’ve done it again.
(I really do have a headache, though. And I really did have to yell at my students yesterday, which I don’t like doing.)
There’s a song on my iTunes by Stars called “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead,” which is just a fantastic title. One of the lyrics is “there’s one thing I want to say, so I’ll be brave.” I like this. I like this even more on days like this when I know damn well what I need to be saying, and I know equally well that I’d rather talk around it for the rest of Lent than own up to the matter. Accountability, thy name is painful.
I got into a conversation Monday with a man—damn it all, fine. I went into a spot of counseling Monday, and we talked about various things, but one of them was spirituality. Mine, specifically. You don’t get to know of my adventures with counseling, Reader, because it is an ongoing battle with myself, the world, and Dominus Deus that I have had any adventures at all. It is anathema to me to sit in a room with a person focused on me and only me for an hour, but I know that it’s stupid for me to tell others to seek that kind of help if I’m afraid of it myself. I swore an oath to my church one year and three days ago that I would acknowledge my “own brokenness and vulnerability so that those who suffer may trust [my] care,” and oaths matter. It’s taped to my bookshelf in my living room. So, I acknowledge it. I am broken, so I went to work on that.
The man asked some tough questions, questions about where God is to and for me, about how I understand my own faith, about how I think about the future when I believe in a deity Who’s supposedly already there. It was rough, mostly because I didn’t have all the answers—I, the champion of the examined faith.
Cue over-thinking, because that’s also a hobby of mine. I couldn’t answer these rather bedrock questions, and it was worrying; I’m thinking of going to seminary? They’ll eat me alive! I have no right to be there! I’ll lose my faith, which is apparently not that well-thought-out anyway, and then I’m thinking of possibly being a pastor? What right have I to tell anyone else about the faith journey and a relationship with God when I have no answers about what that means?
And on. And on. Pandora‘s got nothing on me when I get stuck on an idea.
Yet, even as her box had hope, so do I. I’ve been reading John Chrysostom, a scoundrel of a saint whom I’ll write about soon, and that helps because he had some of the same lack of answers and he made it to being a freaking saint. And I’ve been talking to friends who are walking other paths but also don’t have all the answers, and they remind me that the answers of life and faith aren’t something to be learned and kept, but something to be discovered over and over again as you change and encounter new facets of God that you weren’t ready for before. I didn’t have all the answers because I hadn’t made it to those questions yet, but I have now, and it is mine to work through them with the Guy Who actually knows the score.
So I may go to seminary, and I may get totally shredded. That’s possible. You may go for a job promotion and fail spectacularly. That’s also possible. But what is impossible is that we will do any of that alone, left to our own wits with these questions—and in this may be the start of some of the answers. If, indeed, that was the question in the first place.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12, ESV)