Oh Reader, it has snowed here in the Land of Pilgrims. As ever, I seem to be the only one excited about this, but no matter—I and my delight are content to keep each other company as the hesitant flakes grow and shrink and hurry confusedly to the unyielding ground.
So last week I waxed nostalgic on career choices. It wasn’t quite as random as it may have seemed; I’ve recently accepted a new volunteer position at church that has somewhat forced my hand regarding where I’m heading vocationally—or will, at least, once it kicks in. And it floors me that I am at this place. As you saw, I never intended to be here, eyeballing this career, stumbling down the path of this Call. The whole of this blog has been my bafflement at finding myself becoming…whatever I am still and yet becoming, for it is certainly in no way solidified.
One of the many reasons I am amused by this ministerial turn is that, in my mind, pastors need to be at least somewhat personable. A lot of what they do is pretty emotional; theology may be something we categorize in the mind, but faith takes the soul of you. I, however, am a Vulcan.
This is not to say that I hail from another planet or even that I have pointy ears—it is to admit my love for logic. I like patterns. I like things with predictable actions that allow me to anticipate outcomes and required responses. I like the thought-out decisions of plans with steps and lists and reference dates and checkpoints.
These are not how humans work.
In point of fact, these are so entirely not how humans work that I’ve actually had concerned friends ask me if I’m on the autism spectrum because of my lack of ability to connect to the sheer insanity of emotional illogic at times. (No, I’m not. At least, I’ve never been diagnosed as such; I think I just sort of suck at empathy, which is an entirely different thing.) And the thought of spending not just a career but a vocation following a God Who practically wallows in illogical, emotional humanity just…I don’t know, confuses the hell out of me.
I left the desire to be a veterinarian because I didn’t want to deal with the crazy of people. I left the desire to teach because I didn’t want to deal with the crazy of people (well, and a bunch of other reasons, but that was in the mix). So I’m tumbling down a hill toward ministry that so greatly encompasses the crazy of people…why?
God, I wish I knew.
That’s not totally accurate. I do know. I know that the crazy gets balanced by the heartbreaking grace of being able to be present with someone when the worst of them throws them off balance and they just need a breathing life raft for a while. It gets balanced by the reception of humor and love beyond measurement that comes in the most beautiful explanations and the blunt statements that “it’s a blessing, idiot.” It gets balanced by the moments when a kid finds a place in the really big and mystifying universe for the half hour that you bother to silently work alongside her. These are less illogical than complicated, like the snowflakes I love so much—those are highly logical and mathematical, but you have to take the time to find the patterns, and you have to look very closely. The people side of ministry has trucks full of illogic, but it also has these intricate and closely-woven patterns of one repeating thing.
It sounds so schmaltzy to put it like that, really, like a Christian bookstore poster of swirly letters assuring you God is in everything. But a huge chunk of what keeps drawing me to ministry (beside the worship, and the writing, and the ability to professionally wrestle with God, and the love I have for the Church in all her dysfunction, and the wonder of being able to burn candles every Sunday) is these moments of people being God’s creations. The piece of the Spirit that flashes out from each of them is like breathing pure oxygen—it hurts, actually, to encounter it because it’s so entirely more than what I’m used to, in a way. But seeing that in them and being part of an encounter that allows the other person to discover that moment of the breathtaking more-than-usual presence of God is not only one of the coolest things ever, it also allows me to find that presence for myself. I, too, carry the handprint of God, and I don’t see that until a friend chucks a wadded-up plastic bag at my head to tell me to stop apologizing for growing into who God made me to be.
In the recent reboot of the Star Trek films, Spock’s dad has a line that “emotions run deep within [the Vulcan] race, in many ways even more deeply than humans.” I wonder, then, if God is dragging me into this not because I’m totally unfit for it and it amuses Him to watch me be confused but because He sees the bottom of the very, very deep valley of my ability to do this work for and with other people. Yes, they’re illogical and often stupid and very annoying, but people are God’s deliberate creations. And in that is this vocation, in walking with them and looking for the pattern and feeling, however that ends up looking.
Perhaps, if I keep going this direction, I really should learn that mind meld—for vocational success, of course.
Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant. But I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who made the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:10-11, MEV)