Saturday, May 06, 2006

I walk down the sun-drenched streets of El Paso. The mountains rise to the west, and the winds from the east cool me off in the dry air. It's probably 95, but it feels more like 75. Soon, it's evening. I kick back with a beer in the driveway of Susan and Miguel's house, on the corner of Moonlight and Ecstasy (coolest address EVER). To the south, past the limits of El Paso, the lights of Ciudad Juarez stretch for a far as the eye can see. The mountains cut a subtle line in the night sky, separating varying degrees of black and moonlight blue. Stars overwhelm; I close my eyes and I can imagine existing forever in this place.

I'm not sure what the last paragraph means, but I do know that I feel at home in Texas (yes, even WEST Texas) in ways I cannot understand. I struggle to even think of words to describe this place that I'm in. Sure, I'm just here for a 'Reconciling in Christ' training run by my organization. Yet I have jumped in headfirst this year - into the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, into intentional community, away from the beauty (and less-than-beautiful aspects) of college. I feel like I belong to no place. It's not just because I have moved more places in the first 23 years of life than many people do in their entire lifetimes - or even generations of people.

I have a growing wariness of my place in this world. I'm not afraid, because I know I'm not alone. But I continually see so many different places and scenarios as 100% viable that it's almost overwhelming. Sure, I can go to seminary and be a parish pastor. Or I could continue on for my PhD. Or I could become ordained and work abroad. I am intensely aware of the privilege itself to HAVE so many choices in the first place. How horrible life is, you would say.

Perhaps, however, this is more scary than at first glance. What can I do in this world that will be textbook-Frederick Buechner? ("Vocation is where the world's deep need and your deep gladness meet.") The question is not just, "What shall I do?", but also "What shall I say?" I have been told - and have felt myself - that I could make a good pastor. Ministry may be my key to doing good while being good.

What if, on the other hand, I am not a leader? (Go with me on this - it's not a silent fishing expedition for compliments, I assure you. It's a simple hypothetical.) If I fail at this, I do not just damage myself, I put others at risk. The admissions director at LSTC (Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago) talked about this universal fear that, at some point, we would be uncovered for what we truly are. People will see that we really have no idea what we're doing and, Lord willing, we will continue this charade without being discovered as failures. It was amazing for me to hear Brian, an ordained pastor himself, recognized this fear and voiced it. I think, especially in vocation-geared academia, we aren't just trying to learn skills. We are trying to find our voice in the universal choral arrangement. (CAVEAT: Everyone is attempting to do this in whatever their job may be, but I feel like there are different expectations for those in ordained ministry.)

If I'm not a leader, and if people whom I trust are simply wrong (and if I am desperately trying to successfully hide my inevitable failure), then what do I do? I could go forward in a sort of 'courage', and trust that the aspects of myself that need improvement do, indeed, improve. I mean, I want to be GREAT at what I do, as I want EVERYONE to be magnificent at what they do, no matter what that is. In this way, I am sure, we would create a much better and more humane world.

I'm not exactly sure what I set out to write in this entry. I have concentrated - probably ad nauseum - on money (or lack thereof) in my choice of seminary. Money is still important, but once that aspect is taken care of, so many more important aspects come to the forefront. And of those aspects, I think, existing authentically in this world is one of the most crucial.

At least for me.

I want to do good, but I also want to be good at what I do, so that my good is truly good, both for me and for others. Are you good?


At 1:37 PM , Anonymous Bethany McCaughan said...

You took my Frederick Buechner quote! Love it ~ am reading his book (Wishful Thinking, theo abc's... or someething to that effect...).

At 9:04 AM , Anonymous Ben said...

Yes, of course I am good.

And humble.

At 12:33 PM , Blogger Meow said...

First: I am both gooder and humbler than Ben.

Second: I agree completely, and can see myself in many different scenarios in the future...

I guess I've resigned (happily, though?) myself to the idea that no matter what I choose, I'll still be me and I'll still see my path in the world as one that helps me help others. Obviously each path will have a different effect on who I end up being... but we really don't have any other choice than to just choose and go with it, do we?

Even if there were a rewind button, we'd still be stuck in limbo in a "choose your own adventure" novel with our fingers in as many different pages as possible, trying to figure out where we want to go until we give up and read the book straight through, because we want to know what all our options were (WERE) and just because we can. And the book (life) was a waste of time then.


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