Thursday, July 29, 2010

Reading my old journals...

has been quite an interesting look back at the person I used to be compared to the person I am now. I've kept a journal for much of my adult life, starting over 30 years ago when I was struggling to understand and deal with my crumbling marriage, a child who needed consistent parenting, and the pressures of career and friendships, to say nothing of the co-dependency which hamstrung me for many years.

I've thrown out the earliest renditions of those maunderings, except for a couple in which I was not quite as puerile as others; I didn't want my poor son to stumble on them after I was gone and wonder who this infantile whiner was, reminded of the days when I was a less-than-sterling parent and a very immature and egotistic thinker. That's not to say that I don't still have those moments, but I have improved! (IMHO)

Those early journals tended to be full of "counting coup", ways I could avenge myself after years of unhappiness, men I admired who admired me in return, that sort of thing. And they were whiny as all get out. No, the Favorite Son shouldn't have to wade through those in search of his mother's history. Sorry, kid.

But what really struck me were the years just prior to and during seminary, when I felt such a strong call to ministry, dithered for several years before getting the strong wake-up call to ministry, and began the process of preparing for ministry. I can see such stark differences between who I was early on in the process and who I have become---or am becoming.

It's embarrassing to see how callow and crass I could be in those early stages. Those days are not gone for good, I know, because I catch myself being callow and crass every day still! But these days I understand what I'm doing and am able to move beyond callow and crass to a place that is more representative of who I really am. I hope. Or maybe I just hide it better.

Seminary studies, CPE (clinical pastoral education), and internship all changed a piece of me. The educational part, the classes in which I rubbed elbows with Christians of all sorts plus fellow UUs, this was intellectually stimulating and I did better in those tough classes than I ever did in my undergrad work or even in my first master's.

The CPE experience, where I dealt with life and death, sometimes terrible deaths, every day was shocking, satisfying, life-changing, especially in the challenges presented by the group of fellow interns with whom I met daily. I was reminded of a time when I self-righteously hammered an intern colleague for her perceived manipulativeness and later realized that I was just as manipulative in some other ways. Our CPE supervisor gently set me straight and I ate crow, eventually coming to value this colleague in ways I never would have expected.

I went into my internship just about as cocky as I could be, sure that I would set my internship congregation on fire with my dazzling sermons and fabulous ideas. And I did have a good deal of success in these ways, but I got so full of myself that my dear supervisor, Rev. Catharine Harris, had to sit me down and give me some perspective. (I just wrote Catharine a note of gratitude for her courage in speaking truth with love to a very high-on-herself intern who had lots of potential but not much good sense!)

I haven't gotten to the journal in which I record my devastation when the Ministerial Fellowship Committee confronted me with my "intensity" (who, me?) and gave me a less than perfect score in my credentialing interview. That's the next humbling thing I'll have to read and reflect upon. It too was an important step in the making of this minister.

Seems to me that the universe has been hard at work bringing me down a peg or two every time I needed to be reminded of my own failings. And yet I also know that every human being has failings and our life's journey is one of identifying and dealing with our frailties, so that we can gradually become happier, more useful, and better able to pass along our experience, strength, and love to those coming along behind us. Or so I see it today.


plaidshoes said...

I can't even imagine you as your past self! Everything I have read from you, you come across as so humble :-) I don't keep a journal just so I don't have to read it again in twenty years and cringe with embarassment!

LinguistFriend said...

The past can be hard to deal with. It has been suggested to me that it is time for me to do an autobiography, while I still have a detailed grasp of what has happened in my life. But I know that I need to be able to let go of many things in the past, including too many retained papers which would provide the material for writing about my life. They do not have the personal focus that you describe in such things as your ministerial training, but there are enough indicators to remind me of things that I am not always happy or proud to remember.
The Ministerial Fellowship Committee must be something of a mixed bag as an institution. One minister friend has told me proudly of having successfully encouraged a mutual friend, now a very distinguished minister, to continue her ministerial career after her being marked down by such a committee.

ms. kitty said...

I appreciate your kind words, PS; I have learned a lot in the past several years, but I still fight self-righteousness and don't always win. It just doesn't make it into the blog!

ms. kitty said...

The MFC is a gigantic hurdle and you never know what their mood may be; they are as scrupulously fair as they can be, but they are just human and there are always extenuating circumstances which may influence their decisions. For me, their recommendation was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I do trust that process!

Many an outstanding minister in our ranks today received an initial delay or outright rejection by the MFC and decided to accept that challenge and correct the perceived insufficiency. That says something valuable about character, IMHO.

ms. kitty said...
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cUrioUs gUUrl said...

I just started reading Meditation As Contemplative Inquiry: When Knowing Becomes Love. I've come to realize that if I want to be involved in ministry, I need to be quite a bit more awake to the present moment than I am. Anyway, the author Arthur Zajonc, says you should begin every meditation with humility, by getting into a place of humility. I realized I had no idea how to do that. What that might feel like . . .

It's a process : ) Thanks for reflecting on yours.