The Gift of Disillusionment

(*Note: I want to return to the issue/debate about ordination and whether it's a good thing for the family of God in another post soon. But for now, I'm changing the subject to something that's currently preoccupying my mind.)

Let me start out by saying that I hate the feeling of disillusionment. It is extremely painful, and for an idealist like me, it feels like a HUGE loss (and depending on the area of disillusionment, like my own recent disillusionment with a certain intentional Christian community I wanted to join, it can feel like an actual death of someone I love very much). And I do not deny that grief is real, and it needs time and space and love as it gets worked through.

However, over the past few weeks, as I've been reading Life Together by Bonhoeffer for a second time, I have been wrestling with his idea in the first chapter (though certainly he didn't originate it) that disillusionment is an enormous gift from God. I am no stranger to the reality that at times gifts from God can feel like anything but gifts when I first receive them, though in the end they always prove to be exactly what I need. And even though I still feel the pain and sting of the major disillusionment I experienced several months ago, I am lately more open to truly believing that being disillusioned is a gift. As my girl Lauryn Hill says on her unplugged CD (which I highly recommend, at least as much for the spoken interludes as for the songs), "Fantasy is what people want, but reality is what they need." Amen, sister.

I have always resonated with those biblical verses, especially in the Psalms, where the psalmist says something like "I say to the LORD, 'You are my LORD, I have no good apart from you.'" (16:2) Eventually all things, situations, ideals, and people will disappoint me (time and time again). Everything that is not God will at some point reveal that very fact. And while that can be very disappointing, it's a sting that can lead to a deeper awareness of the real, lasting Goodness and Faithfulness of God. And that really is a gift of unimaginable worth.

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Church and Ordination

[Since this is the blog some people from my old seminary community read, and some who are ordained, please don't take my second comment as something against your call or the work you are doing. It's more about the institution, and the accoutrements of the position, not the legitimate ministry people do as pastors. And feel free to voice your disagreement. :)]

May as well come out with my new viewpoints. I can elaborate more later, if you like. But here are two newish thoughts:

1) The church as an institution is basically dying. A lot of people try to brainstorm ways to "save" the church, or to "breathe new life" into the church. I don't think I care about that anymore. As far as I'm concerned, I think maybe it's better if the church as we know it gets destroyed. We don't worship the church, after all, right? And, new wine needs to be put into new wineskins. In this case, the new wine is the Gospel, which always qualifies as new, and if the Gospel busts the old wineskins, then fine. It's about the wine, not the skin. And if the skin can't handle it, then sayonara. (Dislaimer: This is not to say I don't love the church I am a member of, or think God doesn't work there--but I think we are on the verge of some radical changing, in the Church Universal, and I don't care if the institutional church dies. As long as Jesus is proclaimed and people love each other.)

2) I don't think I believe in ordination anymore. This whole thing of lifting up this certain role in the body of Christ, it just doesn't sit well with me at all. We put this high bar for people in "full-time ministry" (which is what all followers of Jesus are called to be engaged in, I don't care what your "occupation" specifically is)--and really, all Christians need to have a high bar. We shouldn't expect more from people who are "pastors", we should be expecting a LOT from EVERY CHRISTIAN. Yes, certain people in the body have gifts to preach or teach or whatever, but that is not worth putting more stock in than the person who stacks chairs, organizes snacks, calls people to hang out, or whatever. Honestly. And I'm sick of pastors being raised up to this whole other level. Though I'm not currently looking for a call to be ordained, I am certified "ready for a call", and thus "ordainable." This does make me have to think about whether my new position means I cannot in good conscience ever think about being ordained. Something to be pondered.


Reading People

My friend invited me to this show on Friday night where this woman talks about her "Four Man Plan" way of dating, and gives funny stories, anecdotes, and pearls of wisdom coated in sarcasm. It was definitely entertaining, though I doubt I would practice the plan in my own life in the exact way it's set up. But there were a few things that stuck with me--and this post will just go through one of them.

To give a little background, let me just toot my own horn and say that I'm really incredible at reading people. For a tangible example, when I was in college, my friend Frank and I would play this silly game where we met someone, and after about one minute we asked if I could guess their major. Then I would, and over 90% of the time I would get it right (down to a very specific level; e.g., not just "engineering" but "electrical engineering", etc.), and all would be filled with amazement (okay, on a stupid party trick level of amazement...). I used to play similar games where I would accurately guess how many siblings someone had and where they were in the line-up, and other facts about their family or about how they were in relationships or something like that. But beyond these party tricks, the point is I just have this very strong level of empathy that allows me to be almost kind of psychic about people and to know very quickly what they're about, what they're struggling with, what they're feeling, etc. It really is kind of uncanny.

So now that you know about this, let me just say, this extraordinary ability goes straight to hell in the area of romance. While when meeting a stranger I could tell you lots and lots about them from a very brief interaction, when dealing with men to date, I am rendered completely useless in this area. Is he interested in me? Hell if I know. Does he want to get to know me better? Clueless. Is this a date, or are we firmly in the friend category? {blank stare} Is he attracted to me? No idea. You get the picture. I wish it did carry over though, it would be so useful. Why doesn't it??? Argh.

So, as Cindy Lu said in her show, as the first postulate of her program, I am a living example: YOU SUCK AT LOVE. Alas.


Settling In

I am happy and grateful to be in my new house. I'm living with one of my best friends in an actual house which is almost unheard of in L.A. (it's tiny and we're renting), and I feel like I'm finally able to get settled down. There is really no substitution for having a tangible place where you can find comfort, rest, and peace. Even though in this world we only get glimpses of what true home is like, those glimpses are really helpful and necessary. Here's my new place:

Then, I had a great time celebrating Halloween with my students yesterday. What a fun holiday, huh? Getting dressed up, strangers giving things to other strangers, all of that. Good times. Here's a shot from my classroom (the new camera phone is being put to good use). Like the hair?