I’ve always been amused that, in English, the same word means both a time away for reflection and/or spiritual growth as well as a running away with varying degrees of dignity from scary/dangerous things. I think that’s a rather perfect pairing for this past weekend (wow, look at that alliteration; it really is Friday, my brain is done).
So off we went to the land of Difficulty, three vans of adults who had just gotten out of work and a gaggle or three of girls and two boys who had just gotten out of school. No really. Fewer than 15% of the group was boys. And these are 7th and 8th graders, mind. If I didn’t know better, I’d think God had devised a gauntlet especially for me.
But off we went. Fortunately, I was in the van with another adult whom I know well (actually, one of the angels who dragged me through camp last year), so that was half the battle. He’s phenomenal, and I’m so glad that I was his copilot. It wasn’t a bad drive; we got our caravan rather switched around and we really were just making things up on the fly, but that happens, right? I’m pretty sure Interpreter spent the entire weekend with an amused/exasperated expression, but that seems to be how this sort of thing works.
Saturday was the Day of Things, which became the Day of Fewer Things because one of our vans got towed. (Seriously. From a strong contender for Shadiest Parking Lots of Big Cities.) So that was a mess. But before and after and even during that, it was amazing how much grace there was. Yes, that’s annoying, and expensive, and frustrating, and sneaky, but it was a totally unlooked for opportunity (?!) for us as adults to model patience and such to the kids, and it also created a whole different type of close-knit for those who came on the trip. Working together was awesome (and I sacrificed a grand number of brain cells to the painting of a basement bathroom, which I was totally happy to do considering I’ve sacrificed brain cells to far less worthy causes), and going to this one particular chapel downtown was great, but we won’t forget that towed-van business, no matter how we spent the intervening time.
And I must take a moment to say, Reader, that this is a great batch of kids. Yes, there are a few who make me sad about life because they’re bossy and impetuous and really quite ignorant about things, but they were right there with us the whole weekend. They rolled with the punches, and I am very painfully aware of how much harder this whole affair could have been if they had been annoying jerks. And they responded to the chapels and such to which we took them, really beginning to dig into the places where faith is weird and hard and much bigger than we give it credit for (even if class Sunday morning was like pulling teeth).
They’ve also taken a shine to me, somehow, and I don’t quite know what to do with that. Kids make me nervous, although this is the bottom end of the age range with which I can actually work. But for them to really seek my approval in their awkward ways, to want to tell me the jokes they find funny (which were mostly not in any real sense; timing is one of the things we’re definitely going to have to work on), to give me a hug, to share their ideas and reactions with me—that’s a gift, and one that I never expected I’d want. Reader, my heart grew three sizes, and you better believe it hurt like hell—still hurts, really, because I don’t live in that world and so am unsure about this odd visitor’s pass.
So it will be an interesting journey with these confirmands, I can promise that. And I’m sure I’ll keep you sort of updated, because this is one of the glaringly obvous places God is ridiculously present in my life right now; there are no implications in this, it is very clearly stated. And it swirls around all of the other things going on—still plugging away at a job that doesn’t seem to matter much but is nice, having an abstract accepted for an academic conference in May, travelling every #($)! weekend because relationships matter but I’m an introvert and very very tired and I would love to stay home for once.
It was a retreat in both senses; it was a time of spiritual growth and reflection, but that reflection freaked me the eff out and now I am running and tripping and stumbling away with very little dignity from how scary this kind of relationship is. I’ll be honest about that, sure, because I have the feeling you know what I’m talking about—how being an adult isn’t a concept, all of a sudden, but a reality, framed in the questioning eyes that want you to explain why the world has parts where the foundations of a church are sinking and no one cares as the plaster cracks and the paint chips away. And you hear the same question in yourself, of why there are broken things, and suddenly it is yours to answer or to own up to the valid admission that you don’t know, but that you’ll check.
In that, too, is grace.
Or what man is there of you, who, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, who will give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11, WEB)