Dropped Calls

I really hate surprises.

This has always been part of my personality, which has led to much frustration when my family surprises me with gifts or announcements or something and my first reaction is that I don’t like them, I’ve never liked them, not even the “good” surprises.  I want to know what’s coming next and be prepared for it; I want to know the details of an upcoming thing so I don’t come up with something different and get disappointed.  It’s a terribly selfish thing, but I don’t like surprises.

It is terribly unfortunate, then, to have gone out to dinner this past week with a friend of mine and gotten two rather major surprises, neither pleasant even by normal people’s standards.  Both, directly and indirectly, had to do with realizing that I don’t have a bleeding clue what I’m getting into by saying yes, I want to go to seminary and be a minister.  Several people have tried to warn me and I kept saying that’s okay, I feel this Call, God will not bring me to something and then leave.

Unless this particular service Provider is One Who drops Calls.

Don’t worry; this isn’t me calling the whole thing off and skipping ministry, not least because I’m not sure I even could turn that battleship around right now if I tried.  But it is the nasty shock of actually hearing all of the people who have been saying that ministry is not what I think it is, that seminary will not adequately train me for it, that there is no God in ministry and only the pettiness of people.  Many have said these sorts of things to me, but I’ve not been hearing them.  But in this moment of doubt, I see their points—why am I going to seminary if nothing I’m going to do in ministry is taught there?  Why am I reading the Call of God as one to an inherently people-driven vocation when I am quite frank about not actually liking people all that much?  Have I, despite myself and my best efforts at being aware and observant, been viewing this career through rose-tinted glasses?

I don’t know.  I don’t know and that freaks me out because it’s a bit late in the game to have these kinds of doubts, but I also know that not doubting is somehow worse.  If there’s one thing this blog can serve to do, Reader, it’s allow you to see that those in the professional ministry—or training to be so—aren’t perfect.  There is no straight line to God, no red phone with perfect coverage and never any static.  We don’t have an inside track…and maybe my future self needs to hear that as much as you might.  To doubt is awful, but to share that doubt in a public forum locked into the eternity of the Internet is horrifying because I want to reassure you and myself that that I am fine, that this is fine, that there is no problem with going forward into this incredibly daunting career that will demand more than I can ever give.  I want to say that ministry is everything I want to do.

And in some senses, I can; don’t worry, I remember how I got this far and I definitely remember the whispers and shouts of God calling my name.  There are weekly moments of ministry that show me the God spark, the living Spirit continually drawing us to Herself.  And I do still believe that God would not bring me this far only to scamper off without me.

But some weeks there is static in this Call.  Some weeks important words get lost; some weeks it feels as though God hung up without telling me.  Some weeks I look at this new career and see only that it will take everything I have and more that I’ve never even known I should offer.  These are hard moments because no one wants to be uncertain about these sorts of things.  We want to know that we are doing what we are meant to do; we want to say we have heard our call clearly and are going in the right direction.

Yet there are tunnels that interrupt service.  There are random flocks of geese and broken towers because humans are weird and hard and a perfect God working with imperfect people is bound to get messy.  I can’t tell you that some wondrous thing happened to restore my faith in myself and in everything about ministry, but I can tell you that one of my high schoolers had a hell of a week and just needed a hug that I could provide yesterday.  I can tell you that that one of the awful pieces of information I got prompted me to reconnect with a friend and understand that his life fell apart but he’s still pressing on in trust in God.  I can tell you that there will totally be all of the frustrating and utterly human pieces of ministry, but they will not be all of it.  Sometimes I will hear the Call loud and clear, and for now that is enough.

I hope.

I’ve never much liked the phone, either.

 

 

Not at all! The word is very close to you. It’s in your mouth and in your heart, waiting for you to do it.  (Deuteronomy 30:14, CEB)

All in the Family–Whatever That Is

family, n.  “A social group of parents, children, and sometimes grandparents, uncles, aunts, and others who are related.”  (Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary)

family, n.  1)  “A bunch of people who hate each other and eat dinner together.”
2)  “People you love and love you back, not neccessarily blood or biological, but you trust them and they trust you, and they take care of you and you take care of them.”  (Urban Dictionary)

I’m having dinner with a friend of mine tonight.  She has a slew of small children and both she and her husband work, so when she was in my office the other day she was preemptively apologizing for the fact that it would be a Friday night and the house would be a mess and then she said, “Whatever, you’re family.  It’ll look like it looks.”

On Wednesday I had dinner at a different friend’s house with his family; he has a slew of teenagers who are coming and going from their various things, he works fairly late, and they have two dogs.  It was a casual affair of showing up and making sandwiches eaten on paper plates because I’m family.

I went to visit a college friend and her parents over the Christmas break and rang the doorbell as I have every time I’ve gone to that house for the last ten years.  The mother came to the door and let me in and said exasperatedly, “What are you doing?  Just walk right in and shout, it’s unlocked and you’re family!”

I hope, Reader, that you can supply plenty of your own anecdotes of people along the path of your life who have taken you in and called you family, who have loved you fiercely and fought with you and laughed with you and celebrated the twining of your lives.  This is something that matters so much to me because “family” is an incredibly laden concept for me.  The family to whom I’m related by blood isn’t exactly warm and fuzzy and we aren’t exactly besties.  But so many people have “claimed” me in some way, these secondary families who re-appropriate the word to mean something new and beautiful.  It is, in fact, one of the coolest things in the world to me when Interpreter calls me “sister,” meaning that we are brother and sister in Christ.

We are currently in that strange part of the liturgical year in between Epiphany and Lent, that time of treading water until the Next Big Season.  In this time is the growing up of Christ; in this time He grows from a boy to a man.  We don’t get many of the stories of this time (unless you want to argue for the canonical attributes of the infancy gospels, which you’re welcome to do); we don’t get the family raising Him (except for when He steps out of their jurisdiction) or the friends who became family for Him.  But once we dig into His adult life, He has some intense things to say about what family is and He models a fascinating family structure with His friends.

It’s been an unexpectedly fraught week here, Reader.  I have officially officially started the candidacy process toward ordination—as attested by the proliferation of paperwork in my life, among other things.  I am For Real in this idea of going into the ministry, which is scary and awesome and exhausting and overwhelming and many other things besides.  And some of the stuff that I need to do in this process is hard, wicked hard in such a way that I need to be able to reach out to others and have them remind me I’ll be okay, that I’m not making up this Call, that it isn’t better just to stay where I am.  These people function as my family, my support network, whether or not they’re related to me by the accident of blood.

I wonder if the disciples were like this for Jesus; He had to go find them first, of course, but they are the ones who gave Him room to discuss His ministry.  They are the ones who told Him that what He was doing was necessary when His blood family just wanted Him to come home.  (Of course, they are also the ones who encouraged Him to run when it got super scary because they were far more interested in keeping their Friend around than fixing the world.)  They are the ones who, in their own incredibly human ways, were His family—what Jesus did would not at all be the same without them.

Perhaps today, Reader, I just want to give a shout-out to my family here in the Land of Pilgrims.  I want to appreciate my brothers and sisters (some of whom style themselves mothers and fathers sometimes), my cousins and aunts and uncles in the faith and in humanity.  Last night was rather rough as I was dealing with some health frustrations and a song came on the radio called Stand by You.  It was the most intensely apt song I could have heard at that moment because I am surrounded by so many people who have walked and will continue to walk through Hell with me—and there are people who have asked me to walk through Hell with them, and that is its own incredible honor and test.

Family, I think, are the people who know what you sound like when you laugh and when you cry, and they are ready to handle both.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they know everything about you—the disciples didn’t know an awful lot about Jesus—but it does mean that they know you, the core of who you are, and they love you in flawed and flawless ways.  How good to have family!  How wondrous not to have to do this alone!

 

 

“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.  There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”   (John 15:12-13, NLT)

Curl Up and Dye

I remember the first time I saw a salon called “Curl Up and Dye” and thought it was the most clever thing in the world.  I’ve since seen so many that I think there’s a salon convention where people get together and brainstorm ways to spin “dye” as a pun.

My hair is naturally a very dark brown and has been since I was born.  I had reddish highlights put in it once when I was in college, but have never done any coloring otherwise.  Today, my hair is streaked with a teal-ish green because I decided this week to hell with it, I’m going to do something outrageous.  I set out to dye my hair blue.  It did not turn blue.  It went green.

Why does this matter, Reader?  Because it’s just hair.  It’s just dye, it’s just color, it’s just for a while, it’s just sections, it’s just, it’s just, it’s just…

I have been so freaked out about various parts of my life lately, and some of them rightly so because they have pretty long-lasting impact.  But long-lasting is not forever because this is not forever.  I will (hopefully) outlive my green hair, but I will not outlive my hair itself.  I will not outlive the scissors that cut it or the bottles that held the dye for it.  I will not outlive some of the people who will see it and have their own reactions to it, and that’s scary as hell and totally necessary for me to understand.  I will outlive the fact that this did not turn out as I had planned, and it will be fine.

green-women-tower-long-hair-green-hair-3a86bea48a8df3f6e20f87f00b3934ceDoes that make sense, Reader?  I dyed my hair because I needed to remember that I don’t have all my shit together and that’s how it is.  I dyed my hair because I wanted to know how it works because I am a curious creation of a curious Creator.  I dyed my hair because I want to look in the mirror and say to myself that I am not this hair, or this face, or this body, although all of those are certainly part of the composition of me.  George MacDonald said that “you are a soul; you have a body” and while I don’t want to encourage a dualistic view of the self I do think it matters to remind myself not to get too caught up in what this body is.  I want to get caught up in what this body can be, in what this person can be, in the amazingly outrageous things that God can do with and through me if I decide that I’m not going to be paralyzed by fear that my hair might be green or my clothes wrong or my tattoos unfashionable.  I dyed my hair because I want to stop trying to be beautiful on the outside.

It’s basically the worst thing in the world for someone to say that someone else is “beautiful on the inside” because it’s very nearly always hiding the statement “but plain and unremarkable on the outside.”  We look at kind people in our image-driven society and somehow excuse them from cultural aesthetics, handing them a day pass from our noticing them because they’re beautiful on the inside.  But their outsides are God’s, too—even though He’s the One Who talks about looking inside instead of outside—and I have met some strikingly beautiful kind people.  Some of them were born that way, gifted with genetics that make them comely to my American sensibilities, but others are made beautiful because that level of awesome really does shine.  Either way, however, it’s a matter of looking at them, actually looking at them and seeing the fingerprints of God all over them.  I want to be like that, especially right now when we look at each other and see so much that is ugly and harsh, our rhetoric of every side spiky and serpentine as it slides off our lips and fingertips to pile on the floor at our feet.  I want to stop saying to myself that perfectly teal hair will make me beautiful and then all of this other stuff will fall into line, because that’s not how it works.  Sometimes your hair turns out green and then people compliment you a bunch because they actually are looking at you and you are beautiful in their eyes even though you think you failed.

And that works because the hair will grow back out, and I will have learned again and again and again that God can work with whatever you freely give, that He loves me even when teal doesn’t happen, that I am beautiful because She crafted me in love and knows what my soul looks like.  I dyed my hair to shake up my perception of myself; I have instead been reminded to look outward at others and see that we have all gotten the dye wrong and yet we are beautiful creatures.

Not bad for a $12 box.

 

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  (Romans 3:22-24, NIV)

Minivan Jesus

My dear Reader, I hope your Friday is currently all that a Friday should be.  I am very glad you’re here with me; I’ve been having a rough time of it lately and I appreciate more than I can say your allowing me this space to think through some things.

This past Sunday was particularly tough; it was both a blessing and a curse that it was one of my preview-your-future-life-type days as I attended/participated in two services, Sunday school, and a pair of meetings for a total of nine or so hours spent at church.  This is nothing, of course, to Intepreter’s 15 hours the same day, but then he may not be completely right in the head after 30 years of ministry.  That much to do is a blessing because it pulls me out of myself and forces me to interact, consider, and think ahead.  It’s a curse because I have to interact, consider, and think ahead—and doing those while concealing that I’m not fine takes a lot of energy.

Yes, I know, there’s the side understanding that this is my family and they love me and I should be free to let them know when I’m not okay and they’ll understand and yes, that is true and fine and well and good.  Sometimes, though, it’s more energy than it’s worth to allow people to care about you like that, not in the sense that I don’t want people to love me (GRR ARG LOVE GRINCHINESS) but in the sense that there are a lot of reasons I may not be okay and I don’t have the space in my life/head right now to explain them to you.  I love my church family and very much appreciate their open offer to be there for me if/when I need them, but I also know that if I say “I’m not okay” they’re going to say “Oh, what’s wrong?” and quite frankly I can’t have that conversation while I’m running from thing to thing to thing.

Does that make sense?

It is such a curious conundrum, Reader, that God puts us in relationship with each other and we insist on finding every possible way of making that as hard as we can imagine.  We distrust each other, we misspeak to each other, we push on the wrong buttons and ignore the right ones, we assume so much.  And it almost gets worse on Sundays for those of us heavily involved in church activity; we look right at each other and hurry to the next thing, and some days that’s exactly what needs to happen and some days we miss the person directly in front of us refusing to admit s/he’s not okay.

I don’t know what to do about that, Reader, I really don’t.  I don’t know what to do about being called ever deeper into a relational faith when I have no real idea about how to be in relationship and am beginning to find that no one else fully does, either.

Lest you think this is a pessimistic Friday missive, however, let me tell you how Sunday ended and why I titled this the way I did.  Sometimes, someone does know how to be in relationship and has the energy to do that.  (I don’t fault anyone at all for knowing what to do but not having the energy to do it; there’s no way you can be effective in sharing someone else’s burdens if you’re totally depleted yourself.  As a dear friend told me Wednesday because he’s much more insightful than he gives himself credit for, “Please, please, please, please be good to yourself.”)

So the last meeting that I had on Sunday let out at about seven, which is a totally respectable time.  I had been rather quiet the entire meeting—and my fellow meeting people had noticed and been very kind about respecting my wish to get on with the meeting rather than acknowledge that my head was in seven other places—and Mr. Great-heart and I were among the last to leave.  I was getting into my car when he rolled down the window of his minivan and said, “You are not okay.  Come here, let’s talk.”

I recognized that he would not be dissuaded, so I climbed into his van and insisted he needed to go home to his family, that I was fine.  I was not fine, he said, I was not fine at all and if I didn’t want to say why that was totally okay but he wanted to make sure I had that choice.  He was there if I needed him.

We didn’t talk very long and I didn’t go very deep because he really did have to get back to his family; it was a long day for him, too.  It was such an good thing, Reader, to be reminded that connecting to another doesn’t have to be hearing his/her whole life story.  I hold a sort of Mother Confessor role for some of my coworkers and there really are times that they need to work through an entire mess of things that takes twenty minutes to explain.  But that’s not always how it needs to work; there are some times when it really is just a friend reaching out to say you are seen, your being “off” is noticed.  So much of the power of faith, I think, is following a Person Who says your name when everyone else forgets it—Who calls you to His minivan to make sure you’ll be okay for the night.  When we open ourselves to that place, to extending the invitation to relationship as well as seeing and accepting it, we are living more fully into the Spirit that reshapes us.

This can also happen, in case you’re wondering, in a sedan.

 

A friend loves you all the time, and a brother helps in time of trouble.  (Proverbs 17:17, NCV)

On My Own Four Wheels

The wind today in the Land of Pilgrims is ferocious, Reader.  The remnants of a storm that woke me with insisting fingernails of rain tapping my window at 5 this morning sweep through the valleys between buildings on this campus, whirling up the tower past my office window.  It whistles through the top notch I can never close because I can’t quite reach it.

It is a day in which I’m very glad I’ll be getting in my car and driving home for a little while before a concert.

This has not been the week I planned, not at all.  For the first time in a while I had several evenings in a row without meetings or obligations, evenings I planned to spend blissfully curled up with my laptop while I cursed my characters in this first week of NaNoWriMo.  I did end up getting to do some of that, but I also got to spend several days carless and worrying about repairs.

I live in a small city, Reader, where there is public transportation but it’s not the most efficient or user-friendly.  It is not an automatic assumption here like it is in New York or Chicago or London.  This is still very much car country, and as a single person who lives alone and has a pretty crazy schedule I rely very heavily on my car.  No bus gets to all the places I go, so when I don’t have a car, I lose a lot of freedom.

By freedom, I mean independence.

How American a statement!  I remember my father’s father adamantly insisting he could drive in his later years even though he was going blind and deaf and had a heart that never decided on a regular rhythm.  He knew that losing his license would make him, culturally speaking, baggage; an old leftover ferried around by his family, a burden, an afterthought.  He was an incredibly independent and stubborn man and he fought that loss until the doctors themselves said no more, we cannot allow you on the roads.  It was a point of some soreness for the rest of his life—which was a little less than a decade.

No one plans for their car to fall apart.  Mine is old (but don’t tell her) and has certainly been ill-used.  This summer alone we travelled together some 9,000 miles in about 4 1/2 months; she has been put through her paces, as have I, and it’s showing in some of the repairs I have to do.  But when they crowd together, demanding to be heard in clanking rumbles of discontent; when the repairman say we will have to do this, and this, and this, and this…Reader, I get so frustrated.

Part of it is that I am frustrated I can’t fix this myself.  I pride myself on being able to do little fix-its and delight in around-the-house type jobs.  I like knowing how things are put together; when I was a kid, I would exasperate my mother by pulling apart her pens to see if they all had the same pieces and then putting them back together with mixed success, depending on whether or not I’d lost the spring in the deconstruction process.  She started using a lot more pencils until I was old enough to be able to handle the concept of keeping all the parts.

But I don’t understand cars, and specifically I don’t understand my car.  I haven’t had the chance to pull up in a driveway and pop the hood to just explore the engine; I haven’t taken the time to crawl underneath with a book or a friend and memorize the chassis layout.  It irks me, Reader, that I fit the stereotype of the clueless female who walks into a mechanic’s shop and has no idea why there’s an upper and lower engine mount.

It’s also frustrating because, for the several days that I didn’t have my car, I had to rely on other people.  The horror!  The outrage!  The humility of it!  Oh, Reader, how amazing it is to see all the places in my life that I still stay, “No, I’ve got this, I’m okay” even when asking for help is the most logical thing to do.  One of my coworkers lives literally across the street from me; she was more than okay with ferrying me around for a few days, especially since the only places I went were work, home, and the shop.  I’ve no doubt that it would have been a bit different if I had had several meetings I needed to attend, but even that could have worked.  After all, have I not done the same for her in the many times she’s had car trouble?  I didn’t think anything of it because I understood that this was something she needed and I was in a position to help her out; no worries.

Yet when the positions are flipped, ALL THE WORRIES.

Oh, how much I want to know everything and be able to do it all by myself, to walk around on my own two feet and drive on my own four wheels and need nothing and no one.

Until the wry voice of God whispers, Even Me?  I was not created to know everything; I was not made to do all things by myself.  Even Jesus wasn’t master of all trades; He was a carpenter’s Son Who wasn’t as good at fishing as Peter or at accounting as Matthew.  And that was fine, because He was good at His thing—He was very good at His thing, thankfully.  But His thing wasn’t every thing, and if freaking Jesus didn’t do everything, what makes me think I can or should?

No, little one, it is grace to be in relationship with others.  (Even though it’s really great to have my car back.)

 

But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.  He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.  (Luke 10:33-34, ESV)

I’m Single and I Know It

I think my favorite of the many parodies of LMFAO’s original is the NASA one, but then I have a soft spot for nerds being super nerdy.  Of course, I’m currently listening to electro swing, so you can take my music taste with a grain of salt.

So here’s the thing:  mad celebrations and party hats, Reader, because this week was the first step toward Officially Being an Official Ministerial-Type Eventually.  I have my local church board behind me now (they affirmed my plans for candidacy, is the official language) and am on the docket for going before the full church later this semester.  There are now a whole lot of things that I have to do, but this is pretty much the first Announcing Myself step, and it went pretty damn well.

In going official about being ministerial someday, I get to start thinking about what that will look like.  And, frustratingly, part of that picture will be my dating life.

I don’t know that I’ve mentioned relational status on here before, Reader, mostly because I like privacy but also because it really isn’t anyone else’s business.  But the funny thing about going into professional ministry is that suddenly a whole bunch of you becomes other people’s business, whether it really “should” or not.  Especially because I’m relatively young and I am female, the fact that I’m not married and haven’t spawned at least one mini human will cause several comments as to what I’m doing with my life—to be perfectly candid, it already has.  I have had the conversation with the well-meaning parishioners who are convinced that if I would take the time to talk with some nice young boy (occasionally their nephew or grandson; yeah, I’ve had that attempted match-up), ministry/work/life/Valentine’s Day would be that much more pleasant.

My dear and lovely Reader, if you ever come across a clergyperson, feel free not to comment on his/her relational status.  Even if his/her spouse is standing RIGHT THERE.  Hell, especially if his/her spouse is right there.  While you’re at it, if you ever come across a breathing human, feel free not to comment on his/her relational status until s/he brings it up him/herself.

I’m serious about this.  I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to have people attempt to fix me up with someone out of some weird concept of making me happy.  I get the feeling behind it, I do, and I appreciate that (most of the time) it truly does come from a place of love and consideration for me.  But it’s never actually that; when someone tells me that there’s this person I should date, what I feel like they’re telling me is that I am currently incomplete, that I would be happier/healthier/wealthier/wiser/whatever with someone else.

And what that tells me is that, all love and consideration aside, you don’t know a damn thing about me.

Let’s start with the obvious—if you want to fix me up with a guy, you’re assuming I’m straight.  Whether you’re right or not is something you for sure aren’t going to know now because hey, my sexuality really isn’t part of our friendship.  If I’m out with you and I oogle somebody (politely, of course), then it is part of our friendship and there can be commentary.  If all we do is talk to each other about your kids at the bi-monthly potluck, the sex I’d like to date is pretty off-limits.

Then there’s the assumption that I would work well in a relationship with this person you’ve suggested (or anyone at all) because I’m so super cool and lovable.  Again, I appreciate your friendship, but you’ve never dated me.  You have no idea what kind of tar-filled pitfalls I may sneak out of the shadows when I’m in girlfriend mode.  I could be single for very, very good reasons.

Or I could be single because of some very, very bad reasons.  We each of us carry our own stories of heartbreak and sadness; some carry stories of abuse and fear.   We’ve never had that conversation, so your assuming that my not being in a relationship currently is something that should be rectified is running completely over the fact that I may be flat-out terrified of getting that close to someone else.  Or I may just still be really sad about the last person I dated, or having never dated at all.  Thanks for considering my emotional welfare, friend.

I realize this sounds rather snippy and selfish—good.  It is snippy and selfish, because it drives me nuts that people still feel like single is something to be fixed.  Yes, I am painfully aware that God created man and woman together and He said it was not right for them to be alone and so on and so forth.  I’m also aware that Paul said it was better to be single.  It depends on what you’re doing with the relationality and sexuality that God gave you—if I truly were painfully lonely and sad about it, I might be doing more to get out on the dating scene.  If you don’t see that I am, your need for me to be un-single isn’t seeing the whole picture that is me.  I’m having a pretty rocking time figuring myself out, actually.

God loves me all by myself.  God will use me in ministry all by myself—and maybe someday God will use me in ministry with a significant other.  In the meantime, if you decide that you “love” me enough to try and stuff me in a relationship without talking to me about it first so I better fit what your idea of a woman/minister/twenty-something/human should be, I will decide that you are not the kind of person I need to have around all that often as a support system.

But I want you to be free from care. The unmarried person cares for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord.  But the one who is married cares for the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided.  (1 Corinthians 7:32-34a, LEB)

(Oh, and just so you know, Reader—sorry I almost forgot it:  there won’t be a post next Friday, as I’m off visiting a seminary.  Wish me luck!)

The Curious Art of Making Friends

Since I’m a language and grammar nerd, I always like looking at how we say things as well as what we’re actually saying.  I was thinking about this last night in context of the phrase “making friends,” or “making a friend.”  It’s an act of creation.

So it’s VBS week at church, which is both really neat and horrendously exhausting. This year I’m co-teaching an adult class with Interpreter, which is its own barrel of really neat and horrendously exhausting, but I love it a lot and am daily affirmed that this is the right direction (provided I live alone forever, as these 13 hour days of PEOPLE are killing my poor little introvert soul).  Last night some of us adults (which is still weird that that’s my category) went out after the evening ended for drinks and general de-stressing before the last push of tonight.  It was definitely not something I do all that often, this casual hanging out with a group of people just drinking and laughing and being ridiculous.  I’m much more the coffee-shop one-on-one type, or the meeting-over-lunch type, where there is a point and purpose we’re trying to achieve.

In short, I’ve kind of forgotten how to just hang out and be friendly.  I have plenty of things I could say about how that happened and why it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the thing of it is that it took me a minute to just be part of this atmosphere.  And it was okay; this is not something I want to start doing on a regular basis, but it was good to be that different part of myself that is outrageous and loose and sweary and such.  As we were leaving, one of the folks said, “It was good to hang out with you; I’ve never gotten to do that before,” and it occurred to me that this is how adults build friendships.

Ewwwww, friendships.  They take work, right?  And vulnerability.  And trust.  And honesty.  And all of these awful things I don’t like because I’m a curmudgeon and I have my two plant children (no, really, I have a spider plant and an aloe plant and I am currently succeding at plant parenting, back off this is an accomplishment) and my books and that’s enough thank you.

Except for the part where it isn’t, and where not everybody has to be my bestie 4eva.

The thing about following the human/divine Christ is that He was human as well as divine, which seems obvious but has so many exhausting pieces to it.  He had friends; yes, the disciples were His students, but they were also His pals, the ones He wandered around with and the ones who told Him when His tunic was on backwards.  But He also had several layers of friends; there were His best buds, Peter and James and John, and then there were folks like Andrew, and then there were the various Marys (which sounds like a great band, actually) and so on.  And each of those relationships took work.  Each had a point of creation by a creative God.  Each was a totally different kind of important.

Sure, it wouldn’t necessarily have worked for me to go to the pub last night and say, “hey, let’s go fish for people” and then all of a sudden I’ll have a posse, but to go at all is a hell of a start.  To make a friendship of whatever depth or duration is, like any creative endeavor, a work of time.  You don’t sit down with an easel and paint the “Mona Lisa” in half an hour, even if it’s paint-by-numbers.  Likewise, you can’t craft the various parts of yourself that don’t want to open to someone else because that’s effing scary yo into something that can mesh with someone else in ten minutes.

Naturally I find this very frustrating, not because I’m impatient but because all of that time of crafting a friendship is the moments of false starts and accidental insults and feeling weird because you kind of had a fight but not really because you weren’t friends yet so it doesn’t count but it totally does because you don’t trust that other person but then there has to be this relationship, so…  And this is awkward and uncomfortable and so desperately human, which is not at all my favorite thing to do of a Thursday night.

And yet.

Yet God calls me to relationship with Him and with His people.  Try as I might, I can’t convince Him to call me to a life of solitude in a remote hermitage somewhere, so in a certain sense I have to go to the pub of a Thursday even when some of the people there are folks I don’t really want to see, even when I just want to go home and hang out with my plants.  This isn’t to say that I should always overrun my own desires and boundaries, nor is it to disavow the beauty and acceptability of being an introvert, but it is to say that God calls me to come out sometimes and create relationships.  To make a friend.

Even if making a friend is actually reshaping myself so that I can be a friend to someone else, who delights in having a drink with me.

Weird.

 

“I no longer call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master does. But I have called you friends, for everything that I have heard from My Father have I made known to you.  You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that the Father may give you whatever you ask Him in My name.”  (John 15:15-16, MEV)