Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I'm a big chicken

I feel so pathetic. I've talked this great game on here. If you read this you've heard me going on and on about my deep desires to do something for the world. I talk about my heart breaking for Africa and being restless and wanting so badly to get out and make a difference.

I found CPT and met the Hebron guy, and then met other people and my friend wants to go with me, and we were going to go together and it's the right length and a time when I could go and it's dirt cheap ($2000 inc airfare for 10 days) so that I could even pay it out of my own pocket if I didn't raise support.

And now I'm chickening out. I'm just getting scared. I met a bunch of Jewish seminarians over the weekend and they'd all been to Israel, and they were all advising me strongly against going. They said it's just a powder keg right now. And chances are something will go down this summer, right during the time I'd be there.

I wanted to go because it's dangerous. They told me it's the front line and I said yeah, that's why I'm going. But they said they understood the sentiment but it's not worth it. They even said the settlers there are assholes who will not care who they hurt. There's a huge chance of getting caught in crossfire. It only takes one person doing the wrong thing on either side and it all explodes.

And you know I've been sitting on this application for months and I just can't get myself to finish it. I don't want to be scared. I don't want to be a wimp. But am I even doing this because I'm called, because I care? Or am I trying to show some kind of bravado? Or worse, and most likely knowing me, am I doing it for attention??

I don't want to give up on these feelings I've had all year. I feel like a loser. My friends are in Papua New Guinea. My brother's gone to New Zealand the last couple years. Even my sister spent 6 weeks in India working in an orphanage.

What do I do? Squat. When I travel, I go to Paris and sightsee and spend a month's rent on one dinner. I go to Scotland and pretty much do the same (except the dinner part - that's more a once-a-life thing).

The world is so big and so needy and I just wanted to get out there and help somewhere. Maybe there's another org in the Holy Land that is in a safer area (I was told it was pretty much just because it was Hebron that it was so bad). Maybe one of these Africa feelers I've put out will yield something. I don't know.

I just feel like I'm going to be so lame if I do nothing but go to school this summer. I know, I know, that's what I'm doing right now, and it's noble and all that. But I really thought I might have started caring. I thought I was bigger than just a person who wants a degree to better herself. I wanted to help someone.

It's just things keep coming up and stopping it, not unlike my ordination process. I have all these deep wants but nothing is working out. I even feel stupid if I just find someplace to help this summer here in town. And that's dumb! I should be really happy to help wherever! Why do I need the glamour of an exotic locale to do God's work? It's just God's work!

But what would be the problem with me going to Israel to sightsee, to see the places I study? I mean, really? I would feel like that was stupider than purposely putting myself in harm's way. Or at least more selfish. When actually the latter is probably most selfish.

I don't know. I don't know. The only thing I've known for sure without a doubt in the last couple years is that I'm getting the degree I'm supposed to get. From day one everything has gone perfectly with this MDiv. And I've never had one iota of doubt about getting the degree (about the place I'm getting it, sure, but not the degree itself). I love my studies. I love it so much. And I hate that I feel so guilty about that.

I hate feeling unfulfilled because I'm holding myself to some other standard. I don't even know who's stupid standard it is! I don't even know why I'm beating myself up over this. Why would it hurt so much to let this dream die? Would the world end if I just didn't go?

The other thing that keeps coming up is teaching. I did a presentation today and someone told me that I should be teaching at seminary. That he'd sign up for my classes. And it's not the first time - whenever I present in an academic setting people tell me I'm good at it. That I make tough stuff interesting and passion comes through in my presentation.

And then there's this paper publishing thing. And the looming idea of Phd. Maybe I should just save up my energy for teaching. Maybe I shouldn't try to change the world. Well except change it through teaching. Which is certainly a way to do it.

But if I don't do something with these feelings of pain for the world - besides bugging you guys with my incessant blogging - and wearing my ONE bracelet and telling people why - if I don't actually get myself to Africa or Hebron...have I failed? Have I failed my heart - my desires? Have I failed God? Have I failed you?

Do you need me to make good on all this? Will I be a sham if I don't?

I wish I knew. I wish I knew what to do. I wish I knew how to be good. I wish I had unlimited time and money to do all this stuff I want to do. It's so hard to help when you're poor and busy, both of which school does to you in spades.

I don't know. I'm afraid to tell my friend that I might not want to go. But part of me feels like it would be a relief. Embarrassing, yes, especially to tell the people I've talked to so passionately about this that I chickened out.

Wouldn't it be so much nicer to go to the Holy Land - or anywhere - with J, bonding with him, not running off on my own? That can still be really impactful. I want the life-changing experience though. Or do I?

The biggest problem is that I just can't think that far ahead right now. I have papers due next week, the week after, and then all the big ones the week after that, then finals, then spring break during which I have to finish this movie from my summer class last year, then a whole other quarter to deal with, then I have to get this paper ready for publication...I mean, there's a lot, and that's not even beginning to touch on anything not academic. I don't even know what classes I'm taking next quarter and I register in 1 week. I'm so out of it.

I fear I'm in danger of not living in my present life and I don't ever want to be that person. Yet how do you ever make something big happen that actually requires planning if you're only living in the moment? It's a quandry.

All these people I've met, the signs pointing towards doing something, going somewhere. Am I ignoring the call? Or is there not anything there but coincidence? Do I need to listen harder or do I already know there's nothing to hear?

I don't have any answers. Blogging this out hasn't really helped. I'm afraid the answer is do nothing. And isn't that always a terrible answer?? Isn't that when evil thrives?



Anonymous said...

Hi Feminarian,

Wishing you well in your discernment. I have several thoughts here, no idea if any of them will seem relevant. But if we were chatting over a cup of tea (yes, I am English) I’d probably ask about some of this. Sorry it’s a bit long!

To live faithfully is not doing nothing. Living Christ’s life where we are, in the stuff we do every day is a profound contribution to the world’s health. And you know that – you talk about “being where you are”. From the Quaker cultural perspective, God will tell us where God wants us to go. Traditionally, the Quaker path has involved surrendering to God’s will and waiting in an awareness of God’s presence for God’s own spirit to move us. Which is a kind of faithful doing nothing, but which we believe will put us where we are meant to be.

This summer at a World Gathering of young adult Quakers I had a really strong knowing of what I am meant to be doing. I understood in that moment that my “job” is to live a prayer of love in my everyday life. I’m not great at it, I’m trying to learn how, but it answered that nagging feeling that I might be meant to be somewhere else, doing something else. No, I’m meant to be here, doing very ordinary life things with love. No grand gestures. My point is, not all of us are called to go anywhere and a call to stay at home is no less genuine.

Have you considered going on retreat to do this discernment? Could you spare 24 hours or even longer, to just be with God and wait to know God’s will? You could fast or do some other practice, maybe. Is there someone, a pastor or a spiritual friend whose knowledge of God you respect, who could help you plan a retreat, or who would be willing to meet with you & pray with you to know what you are meant to be doing?

I guess I am expressing a view which is about surrendering your own will in this, and waiting on God to tell you. I believe that faith is a very active force – we have to use it, like a muscle, in order to understand God. If we are willing to depend upon God in prayer, to put ourselves in God’s hand as Jesus did, *then* suddenly God speaks. The act of faith is to put aside our own willing, be prepared to walk away from everything including what we have rashly told our friends we are going to do, and I think nine times out of ten God turns us round and sends us right back into our everyday life, saying “this is the cup I give you”. And I understand that humility in God’s grace makes it possible to do whatever is set there, even if it’s not prestigious or dramatic.

It's true that the world is big and needy, but no less where you are than anywhere else. If there’s a radical outbreak of God’s peace in California (that’s where you are?), where the spiritual thirst can be slaked and people are being truly set free to live Love's life by the sheer amount of God's grace that's pouring in, it will help everyone on earth. And I have a belief that listening and praying and allowing yourself to be transformed by the knowledge of what you have heard is a vital part of God’s work of bringing peace. Maybe the people who you meet from the exciting projects around the world are bringing you what you or others where you are need to learn from those far away places? Listeners are needed, people who stay where they are and pass the messages out into the home communities, as well as those who go out and learn in other places.

Like I say, it’s just one more view for your considerations. God bless!

Anonymous said...

"Have I failed you?"

Nope. I've enjoyed reading this blog, and I think your posts are full of meaning and insight. They carry some benefit to me, anyway, since I've yet to get back into going to church again. So...whatever you decide to do, please keep writing.

Oh, and the commenter before me had some pretty good things to say, too.


Stasi said...

She certainly did.

I'm going to seek out a way to do some retreat...maybe over spring break.

Jessica said...

a friend pointed me to your blog--in part b/c he thought i'd like your feminist in a conservative evangelical seminary bit, but mostly because of this recent post. I just returned from 2 months of living in Palestine. I was based in East Jerusalem, but spent a lot of time traveling around the West Bank. and i think you should go. yes, hebron is intense right now. especially with the evacuations. but hebron is also at a historically critical point, and it would be amazing to be part of the inertia seeking a just resolution. if youre leaning away from hebron, i could hook you up with different orgs throughout the west bank (i.e. a children's theater group in bethlehem, palestinian feminist groups in east jerusalem, women's economic empowerment org in ramallah, a film collective in nablus, the world council of churches has a program throughout the west bank.)and i know someone who is moving to hebron--with the world council of churches program--sometime in march. i'd be happy to talk with you more by email or phone or whatever... and you can check out my blog and see if youre even interested in my perspective on the situation or in any orgs i could point you to...

until then, best of luck in sorting through all of these desires and fears and passions of yours.

saraeanderson said...

You don't necessarily need to go anywhere to help people. The unfortunate truth is that there are problems everywhere. Volunteering at the local rape crisis center is just as useful as doing the same thing in Africa.