Saturday, November 03, 2007

More weirdness

Last night I had another really vivid, strange dream. I was inside a giant block of ice, and there were all these people chained in there. They were freezing to death, slowly. They each held a brick of ice and they were chanting the number of days they'd been in there: "Day one," "Day Five" and so on. Over and over, and that's all they'd say. Somehow in the dream I came to the realization that it was a trap like something from the Saw movies and I was about to be handed my own ice brick. One of my friends from class was in there, about to freeze and all blue, with his face covered in ice, chanting day five. I was thoroughly creeped out and I think I forced myself awake.

The truly strange thing happened next: my brain was like, "What did that mean?" And then it actually answered the question! It said, "This dream is because today, for the first time in quite a while, somebody asked you about your ordination process."

Which is true, I had met with a favorite prof and he'd asked about it. When I had that flash of meaning - this dream was about ordination - then all these connections starting forming. That I was being frozen out by the church. That people were slowly dying in this process. That it was all run by some maniacal entity outside of the room who perpetrated the torture but had no compassion. And everyone just kept counting the days they were stuck, unable to move, or change their situation, or feel warm and safe again.

How's that for a super depressing episode with my subconcious!

Anyway I am all in a dither over my future. I feel more and more unsure of the choices I'm making - all this playing at being some big scholar. I don't even know if what I think I want to study is actually what I want to study. I'm questioning it all. And worst of all, I keep getting all these kind welcoming offers from the people at Fuller to just stick around and study with them. They love me so much and it's really hard to say no to that. It's comfortable and familiar and I've got a dream team of mentors already. I know they'd let me pursue whatever I wanted and I'd probably have a very supportive as well as challenging time with the actual degree.

But then the problem is: what would happen next? I have no idea what I would do with another degree from Fuller Seminary. Would I be pigeon-holing myself into teaching only for seminaries and Christian colleges? But wouldn't that be OK (for many years I saw myself called to renewing the church)? Perhaps I could just run the house for students that John and I dream of - our salon meets monastery meets fraternity, where we'd engage in the collegiate way of life with a select group of dedicated students, him being their academic and me their spiritual mentor. Would that be a "waste" of my gifts? Not that I couldn't keep preaching and working at churches with that life. And when our own kids come along, it's not a bad life to be leading. Neither is academia, though, from what I've seen and been told. It can be a hell of a lot more flexible than full-time ministry.

I don't know. Some days I think if I don't escape the Evangelicals I'm going to burst. I am really really different from them. I do like what my friend Aram suggested: that I go from being the liberal person to the conservative at a school, and see how that feels. And I feel ready for a change - at least, there are things here I want to get away from (like the ordination process). Why is it we feel like failures, though, when we choose the obvious thing that is before us? The easy road? It's not the road more or less traveled - it's still a PhD and it's still competitive. I'm not wimping out, I don't think. I'd just be choosing, though, to keep my academic life in a very small bubble, in a tight theological arena instead of branching out to see what heresies I might enjoy dabbling in for a while. Gee, maybe staying at Fuller would save my soul. Or destroy it.

I don't know. It's all happening very fast. There are all these applications to write, and schools to check out, and they all have faculty I'm supposed to be researching so I don't look like an idiot when I suggest studying with them, but nobody really knows me and I don't know if they're interested in me or my ideas. That's really it, isn't it? The great unknown. I've never enjoyed it. And I'm throwing myself out pretty wide this time, and I don't have the foggiest clue which fish will bite. And even if they do, if I will want to reel myself in, to stretch the metaphor.

With these other schools, GTU and Notre Dame and Catholic and Laurier, I feel like I have to choose a topic now and really know exactly what I'm doing. With Fuller, I feel like I have a little more wiggle room to kind of test out a few ideas and figure out something that is a good topic later. Maybe that's why I like it, because it doesn't force the decision right now. But that's not a great reason, I don't think.

And I also hate that J has no prospects for next year, which makes me feel more pressure to get in somewhere where I will make what we need to get by, and then he can finish the damn dissertation and get a real job. But until I do something that allows him to stop teaching for a while, he can't get a job. He's too busy - or too undisciplined, sometimes - to write while teaching. Really the only thing that might finish his degree is a forced sabbatical. So that puts more pressure on me to figure out what I'm doing. Ugh.

I feel lost. I am so scared of all of this. I am completely unsure of myself. And I don't know how I will feel when I get there, wherever there is.

Awwww, now my friend's invited me to dinner and I'm happy. I'm going to go enjoy that. Live in the moment!


b said...

Regarding teaching at seminary and/or Christian colleges, it has been said that "As the seminary goes today, so goes the church tomorrow." If you want to make changes to the church, seminary is the place to do it.

I'm sure you know this, of course. Bless you.

Marshall Scott said...

We always feel some loss, some grief, when we turn from one path to another. I turned about en years ago from seeking to be a CPE Supervisor and pursuing clinical chaplaincy. I certainly felt a sense of failure in stepping away from the hard process of certification. After all, no one had told me I had to leave, that I could never be certified. I did sometimes feel I was failing. One of my goals, too, was to change the Church by raising the base of pastoral care clergy were prepared to offer.

However, the change came on context of a powerful spiritual experience (one that made sense to me in light of previous spiritual experiences). one of God telling me that this was a change to make Since then I've found that I still have access to students, and can still affect the future of the Church. It just wasn't in the way I expected.

One Sufi writer I remember pointed out that "not all hardship is a challenge from God." If God calls you to something easy, why resist like Naaman? Concentrate on where you think God wants you to be now.

As for ordination: I believe that if God wants you offering that ministry within the Church God will get you through the process. Not necessarily easily, of course; not with the blaze of a falling star; but certainly. That, again, is more about what you feel God is calling you to than it is about anything else.

I have faith that you are looking for what God wants for you; and that She will certainly help you find it.