The Paperwork of the Children of God

One of the cornerstones of what I do, Reader, is finance.  Trust me, never in a million years would I have thought I’d end up with a finance job, but I’m in charge of keeping track of and dishing out the money for my department.

Some days, this is the worst flipping job around.

Money is the one thing no one ever wants to talk about until you have it and they need it, at which point they still don’t want to talk about it but need to do some sort of transaction involving you and it and them.  I get that, but the past couple of weeks have been really trying as I learn to juggle a lot of new information and a lot of unexpected extra work surrounding some departmental things.  I’ve dropped the ball because I’ve never done this before, other people have dropped the ball because communication is awful, and frustration has been building for a couple of weeks now until yesterday, when I just had it.

I’m not saying I threw a temper tantrum in the office or anything, but after the third time of having to re-do a project because of various…miscommunications, I was done with the whole thing.  I had to hand deliver something to a different office and my boss advised me to just keep walking afterward for a bit.  So I did.  I actually also bumped into the College dean, who is my boss’s boss, which was fantastically unfortunate because I had zero filter at that moment.  He was rather sympathetic to my shortness of temper and let me be, because he’s a pretty awesome guy and he also knows the days when you are that close to ripping someone’s head off.  He bid me have a good walk and left.

So I walked.  I walked around the buildings I don’t go anywhere near usually, and I actually looked at some of the statues on campus, and I tried to find all of the colors in flowerbeds.  Luckily, it was a beautifully sunny day, and I just walked, and looked, and breathed.

Eventually I found myself next to the campus chapel (I don’t even know why I’m surprised anymore).  I went in, and I ranted.  I ranted about how mad I was with various people who were expecting me to have the answers to questions they hadn’t even asked yet, and how I hate that the language barrier really is a barrier sometimes, and how I totally make up most of my job because no one ever trained me and no one ever will—this is a learn-on-the-job environment, for sure.  I ranted about having to re-do work, and about how much it sucks to have other people be mad at you because they are themselves frustrated.

And I ranted about how scared I am that this will not change.

Here’s the thing, Reader—having accepted that God isn’t going to let me be about this ministry thing, I’ve latched on to that developing identity with the fierceness of a giant squid.  It’s not that I’m styling myself as a preacher (perish the thought!) but that understanding what is expected of a person in that profession is starting to shape me in my current one.  In the pursuit of ministry elsewhere, I’m finally starting to learn ministry where I am, which is great.  But one of the many things that terrifies me about that elsewhere is the possibility that I will get as bogged down in paperwork and finance and everything else as I am here and begin to hate that, too.  I’m under no illusion that ministry is somehow holier than any other profession—probably it’s less holy, in its own way.  But I am soundly under the illusion that I can bear that because I actually care about it.  I like my job, I do, but I don’t care much about it, and the idea that I would slip into that kind of nonchalance in the next career is discomforting in all manner of ways.

Does that make sense?  I have always heard that you should do what you love and love what you do; standing in that chapel yesterday, I knew I was doing neither and it broke my heart to think that I could reach that point in this new possibility.  I hated everyone, at that moment, for all of the stupidity of that day, week, month.  And I hated hating them.

One of the many things I love about God is that He has the infinite patience to sit through rants like that.  He won’t always—He’s cut me off before when I’ve been way off the mark and just deaf to what’s what.  But most of the time, He’ll let me spark and fizzle out before responding.  After I had spent myself about how people are crap, He said perhaps—but they are also My children.

With the rise of appreciation for yoga here in the West, people have become pretty familiar with the word “namaste.”  It means approximately “I bow to you,” but it carries the idea that “the divine in me honors the divine in you.”  While I don’t agree with the idea that we are each of us divine, I do definitely believe that each of us carries the God-spark of our Creator, our Parent.  I realized that I had forgotten my own humanity and compassion for my brothers and sisters, forgotten that even when they (and I) are stupid and bullheaded and uncommunicative, we are God’s.  He has claimed us.  This doesn’t mean that I can’t get angry or that I should allow people to disrespect me, but it does mean that I am not allowed to strip their humanity in my response.  The God-spark in me asks for treatment that recognizes I am a person, I am a beloved creation, and I deny that Presence of God if I do not do the same for the other.

So I walked back to my office, slowly, and ran my hand through the ornamental grasses, and breathed.  I do not know whether the next career will be filled with soulless paperwork that bleeds me dry.  I do know that that job, and this, are filled with souls, and they should not be forgotten by me.

 

 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”  The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”  (Luke 10:36-37, NIV)

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One thought on “The Paperwork of the Children of God

  1. Hopeful says:

    Reading this post has triggered so many thoughts! I hope that I can express them in a way that makes sense…
    Yesterday I was talking about my job and sharing my frustration as I watch my co-workers, who have great power over other people’s lives, forget the humanity of our clients. With all of the demands of the job it is easy to do.
    Separately, I had a wonderful meeting last week that was incredibly difficult-I talked to clients about extremely personal things and I voiced observations about their family that I imagine is beyond uncomfortable to hear about your own children and yourself from a stranger in your living room. But these two clients were honest with me, and I did my best to be gentle. And at the end of the conversation we affirmed our working relationship, and with tears in her eyes, my client told me that she would continue to trust me to keep her child safe, and that she appreciated working with me. That was the moment I felt that I had done my job well. That to me is ‘namaste’. That is the moment I am affirmed that I have recognized the humanity of another and treated it with dignity. That is the moment that I know I am living within my calling.
    You know, I think that we miss the mark when we talk about our life calling. I think that as we are called to follow the example of a radical Jesus, we have to be ready to know that our calling can change. I might be called to live in an urban environment and take job ‘A’ in my 20’s. And I might follow that call and do it with all of my skill and talent. But in my 30’s I may be called to live and work somewhere else. That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t listening to begin with, or that I don’t understand now. It means that the world is as dynamic as our Creator, and I might have to adjust my following. That’s o.k. One thing I learned by hiking for so many miles and days was this: I can only see as far down the trail as the next bend. And I can sit here and worry about what is beyond that next bend, but I won’t find out until I walk toward it and find out for myself. Or, I can keep a steady walking pace, and at all times there will be a limit to how far forward I can see. And that’s o.k. when I trust the trail to carry me forward safely. I think following your call is similar in that you can only see that your next step is to take a position as a pastor. Will that mean that you get bogged down in the paperwork? No way to know until you reach that bend. I think you’re going to thrive in that profession. You’ll be good. Okay, I’m cutting myself off!
    🙂 Much love, dear!

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