Today’s Subject is Loneliness

Difficult, difficult, difficult.  It has always been so difficult for me to acknowledge and embrace the part of myself that can suddenly be overcome by loneliness, whether I am alone or not.  The person who, in the midst of a room full of people, many of whom she knows, will become increasingly aware in the midst of that room that she feels invisible, unnoticed, passed over.

Perhaps it has to do with who I am and how I see myself.  I am the eldest, and I have always wanted to be liked, to make my parents and those I admired proud of me.  I have always wanted to be someone that other people knew and that folks liked to be around, and I think it would be fair to say that I have coveted the approval of others throughout my life.  But I also know that I like to forget the part of me that was so lonely as a child–I didn’t have a lot of friends, and I often was picked on in school (I was a bit of a nerd, and before that, I liked “little kid” games like make-believe well into middle school, and before that, well, I was sort of a tomboy).  The friends I had were closely held, and often not very many at any given time.  As I got older, I had more “friends,” but almost all of them were not the sort I shared your life with–more the kind that I ate my lunch and took my classes next to.  We were more like friends by geography than choice.

I wonder if that hasn’t persisted to some extent into my adulthood.  Sure, my sister commented in college that I seemed to know everyone, but I rarely felt as though anyone knew me.  MOre often, I felt like folks knew my name, and knew what I did, but didn’t really share my life.  Same with seminary–I was a decent schmoozer, but I left seminary really with one good friend, and I didn’t meet her in school at all.

All of this is prelude to the fact that I am struggling these days with the profound gulf that I will sometimes find myself trapped in.  I know I can’t be alone in this, but I can’t help but feel alone in the midst of it.  My job is one where being extroverted and knowing everyone is good, but one drawback is often that you know a little bit of everyone, and they know less of you.  And given my education I sometimes find myself struggling to analyze my experience, but I am not sure that is the best antidote either… is it really going to help me, for example, to try to try to diagnose my loneliness, or is that just another way to avoid acknowledging that maybe, just maybe, this is a part of who I am?  Maybe I would be better off just sitting in it and feeling it, rather than hiding it away.

I do have to say though, I find it amusing that today I was feeling lonely in, of all places, a church in which the mission statement could probably decently be described as welcoming all people in so that loneliness diminishes and community increases.  And here I am feeling like the odd man out.  I have my reasons, I suppose, but I did find it to be unexpected territory.

If someone brought this problem to me, I suppose I might be tempted to wonder, “Where is God working in this,” or “what lesson might we learn,” or maybe something more clever that connects the spiritual to the emotional.  And I do believe they are connected somehow–I almost never worship myself, these days, and I find it interesting that I feel so lonely when I do.  But I gotta be honest, I don’t feel like answering the questions right now.  If I could be blunt, I just want to feel less like the island I experienced today.  I want to be a part of things, and for others to want me to be a part of their lives, rather than just a number or a person who can give them something.

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Drumroll…

update on my last post– things went well!  I was recommended by my CPM for candidacy and will be appearing in the presence of Presbytery on April 5th…. so soon too! 

As for the process, I will say that this time around was much less nerve-wracking than the previous two meetings with CPM, which is weird because I was expecting the experience of moving to candidacy to be much more stressful.  Instead, I found myself once more in the company of good and gracious folks, faithful Christians intent on helping folks like me discern my place in God’s plan.  They were ever so kind, ever so obviously intent on walking alongside me rather than standing in my way, and as a result I left that meeting feeling built up in the way I believe we are intended to feel.

As for particulars, here are the sorts of questions I was asked:

1) What sort of frustrations have you experienced as you practice ministry?

2) How has the academic environment at Harvard shaped your ministry?

3) With which biblical character do you most relate?

4) How do you understand the mission and task of pastor outside the walls of the particular church?

5) What gifts for ministry have you discovered during your internship?

Really, it was a wonderful experience.  I felt as though I was able to talk about my experiences authentically, which is more than I can say for many of my friends who unfortunately have found this process to be much more stressful in their own presbyteries.  On every account I was affirmed, and in fact I cannot recall a single moment in that meeting where I felt that I was being judged or criticized. 

I feel almost like its bragging to say this went so well, but the fact is that I know that it only went well because the Holy Spirit is truly present with that committee.  I could feel God in those people so strongly, and in turn was able to feel confidently that God is working through me, even when I cannot see it clearly.  In fact I often question my call, and the most vulnerable aspect part of being in that room was knowing that my future is not in my hands.  Then again, to know that other people are walking alongside me, and that when I fail to see God acting through me they are there to reassure me that God is indeed present in my life,  that is truly a blessing that cannot be ignored.

Into the fire

It’s D-Day.  And by D-Day, I mean my annual CPM meeting.  Now, granted, I love my CPM.  They are great folks and I every year I leave with the sense that they are truly committed to this process.  They are loving and supporting (and to my knowledge none of them read this blog so, no, I am not lying or embellishing.  They really rock.).

But then again, every year I find myself so nervous as I approach that meeting.  This year is no different, and if anything it gets worse because I am finally applying to be moved to candidacy.  This year I was asked to bear my theological soul, bite the bullet and put in writing what I believe about God and ministry and my calling.  And I did it, but doing it makes me vulnerable to these people in a way that I wasn’t before.  Things which before were only mine (my dreams, my beliefs, my fears) are now in their hands, and they can choose to accept them or criticize them at will.  It’s as profoundly scary as it is empowering, and I can only hope that I would remember God is in that room with me, and with them.  Because God is in that room.

 But just in case…. pray for me, would ya?