Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What's in a calling?

I don't usually like to unload my spiritual problems on anyone.  And even less so on my blog here since most of the followers of my blog are not Christian.  But recently, I began making some fundamental efforts to rejuvenate my spiritual life and strengthen my connection to God and His people.  I feel like I'm really making strides in this regard, but one thing I feel is really missing for me: a way to give back, ministry-wise.  I've wanted to get involved with a ministry at my church, but kept getting a "no" from God, and this is starting to get frustrating now with this newer and more concentrated effort to reconnect.  I mean, right now the most I'm doing for God is defending Christianity on internet message boards.  Whoop-de-doo.  I'm not changing anyone's minds really about anything, or anything that can even be considered remotely close to saving a soul or converting someone.  The best I'm doing is just showing that not all Christians are complete douchebags, and considering I just used the word "douchebag", I'd say I'm not exactly doing this job all that perfunctorily either.

So, I've really wanted to get involved again with the church.  Back in... oh man, how long ago?  2003 or 2004 I'd guess... I had thought about joining the choir.  I'm not gonna be added to the cast of "Glee" anytime soon, but I'm no William Hung either, at least I think I'm not though nuclear family members have told me otherwise growing up.  Well, one Sunday morning in August or September, just after the morning service, I was having juice and cookies with a friend from high school and her then-boyfriend (they're now married) who had just transferred to the graduate program at MSU, just talking with them.  The choir director walked up to us and introduced herself to the three of us.  She was fishing for new recruits.  Keep in mind, I only knew who she was because she's at the front of the sanctuary leading the choir... we'd never met.  She looks at me and said, "I've seen you around before..." and she then turns and looks directly at my friend and starts trying to recruit her.  I'm still standing there, kinda upset that she didn't even ask me if I'd ever considered joining choir.  While my friend is being invited, my brain and heart are screaming, "HEY!  Where's my invitation?!?!?!!!  Ask me to join!!!"  I left the building feeling... pre-emptively rejected.  Like walking onto a Broadway stage and hearing "NEXT" before I even open my mouth.  I left that day fairly certain that God doesn't want my larynx melodiously meshed with the men and women of the chorale.

Two or three years later, once again in fall, I had asked if there was gonna once again be a Welcome Back BBQ for the students, like they'd done in years past.  I was told that there had been no plans made, but hey great idea.  So, I was thinking maybe I should be a leader in the Campus Ministry program.  Why not?  I was familiar with the program, and last year, there was no leader, causing it to just fall apart for the school year.  As I was cooking burgers and hot dogs that morning for the cookout (not really a bbq, but you know what I mean), I was thinking about asking the senior pastor about possibly heading it up or at least leading in some capacity.  While I was cleaning my grill, the pastor got up and welcomed everyone there, and then proceeded to introduce the new campus minister, who'd be leading the program.  As the pastor kept talking, I felt God put His arm around me and say, "See I have provided for them already.  This is not for you."  I just about cried, and probably would have if a friend hadn't walked up to me that instant and made chit-chat with me.  It still makes me tear up a little to remember this.

The next calling I felt pulled towards was prison ministry.  Our church has a group of volunteers that regularly goes to a prison in the next county over and in addition to sharing the Word, also helps inmates in the process of getting ready to re-enter society.  I thought this would be great for me.  I called the lady at the church who headed this, and she put me in touch with the prison chaplain who gave me a phone interview and said everything looked in order.  I would hear from them soon about going through orientation.  Only, that was the last time I spoke with them.  I even asked the lady from our church about it.  It just simply appears that I must have been lost in the bureaucracy and wouldn't be allowed to join them.  Another rejection.

That was maybe a year ago.  The latest one happened last week.  Our church's full-time custodian is retiring, and they were looking to hire two or three part-time custodians to help fill in.  I sent a resume, had an interview and tour of the storage areas in the church.  Then Friday, I got the call.  I was not selected.  For other reasons I don't wish to get into here, this made going to church this past Sunday slightly awkward for me.

And the worst part is, there is a ministry out there... our denomination's version of the Boy Scouts, that my mother has suggested to me in the past about getting into.  On more than one occasion.  It feels like nagging.  And when the head counselor got wind that I'd been one such scout when I was a boy, he started talking really friendly to me about it.  The thing though is.... I don't WANT to do this one.  There are a few reasons that I haven't tried to get involved, but the main one is I just. Don't. WANT to do it!  Nothing about it feels or sounds right.  Me a role model for young boys in our church?  Are they nuts?!  Me trying to teach them about tying knots, map reading, or building model rockets... me, the guy whose tool sets are filing for separation?  This CAN'T be it!  But I feel like others are trying to SHOVE me into it.  And I'm resentful and angry about it.  How can it POSSIBLY be a calling for me?  Isn't a calling supposed to be a gentle, friendly invitation to serve?  It's not supposed to feel like a forceful push over the cliff!  I know following Jesus involves taking up a cross, but how can I go into His service with a feeling of DREAD towards that particular ministry?  Surely there has to be something else God wants me for!  (cue voice from above saying, "No, and don't call me Shirley!")

So, among the other aspects which are actually coming together relatively well, this is just a rut for me.  It's something I've felt and said before, but I feel the need to say it again: it's a horrible, horrible feeling for me to believe in God but be left feeling like maybe He doesn't believe in me.  Maybe this is one of those things that won't fall into place until after I move to British Columbia and start my new life with my true love, but for right now, it hurts so badly.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What's in the middle drawer?

"Faded photographs, covered now with lines and creases; tickets torn in half--memories in bits and pieces."--the Classics IV.

I'm not a Classics IV fan, but that's one of their better songs.  And of course, it's pertinent. 

I really thought I was moving on from the past, letting go of it.  I thought one of the reasons I'm moving to Vancouver is because I just wanted to get the heck away from the remnants of my past.  I went home to visit my parents, and while there, they suggested I go through my old drawer and sort out what I did and did not mind my niece and nephews, who often spend the night at their house, "borrowing" from me.  So I proceeded to do so.  A good portion of it I could throw away, like old notes or nicknacks from my college days.  Some of it I had to keep, such as returned checks and bank statements.  But a lot of it ended up being of sentimental value.

I found an old alabaster white elephant.  The trunk had broken off before I moved out of my parents' place, and now a leg is broken courtesy of the kids of my sister.  I also found parts of an old music box.  The housing for the actual musical mechanism is ceramic, I believe, and shaped like an upright piano.  Had three parts: a stool, an upper part where the mechanism actually is, and a lower, hollow part for what would be the pedals and upright support.  The stool is still intact, the bottom piece is completely broken and missing.  The upper shell is cracked.  The clockwork mechanism is missing and stopped working years ago.  The tune it played, by the way, I don't know the name of it, but it sounds very much like that crazy tune they play in "The Addams Family" when Gomez and Fester go down to the vault for this first time.... only done in a pretty, music box style.  These are two of the four things I still have to remind me of my maternal grandparents.  They let me have the elephant and the music box when we moved them out of their home and into a nursing home.  (The other two items are a picture of them that's still in a frame, and a sleeping bag they gave me one Christmas that used to be on my bed even after I moved out... but now I believe is packed away somewhere.)

I found my old Cadets scarf and slide.... Cadets is my denomination's version of the Boy Scouts.  The scarf and slide were part of the uniform.

My old "president trading cards".... many years ago, Little Debbie's tried to promote education by making trading cards of the U.S. Presidents.  I had the complete set way back when.  Now, I'm missing McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt, and I think there were cards for HW Bush and maybe Clinton... but I only have through Reagan.

And then I found a bunch of senior pictures of classmates.  A lot of the girls I had a crush on mainly (hey, I was a lonely teenage boy, I had a crush on about 80% of the girls I was in school with).  Brought back some memories.  Then I decided to leaf through an old yearbook I'd found laying around.

*smacks forehead repeatedly*  Idiot, idiot, idiot, idiot, idiot, idiot, idiot!

Oh the faces... saw the picture of a girl who was my first kiss.  She went to another elementary school in our district had been held back a grade, and moved away a couple years after the year of the yearbook I was flipping through.  Old classmates came back to haunt me, people I'd treated like crap, people that treated me like crap.  Wow.  Didn't think it'd evoke such an emotional reaction from me, but there was a lot of anger, remorse, affection, and humor resurrected within me. 

I thought it was over, that I was done with it.  But the past never truly goes away.  Oh it passes, sometimes like a stone, but it's never gone.  The Law Of Conservation of Memories... while they can be created (unlike matter or energy), they can never be destroyed, except perhaps by amnesia or Alzheimer's.  Buried, twisted, perverted, warped, yes... but never destroyed.

So my woman's gonna have to accept that when I come to BC to be with her, it won't be a clean slate.  Mostly erased, but silhouettes of past lessons and specks of chalk once used to express ideas and concepts will still be on that slate, and they always will be.  There's still room for her to write, but the slate will never be clean.

Maybe that's what getting over it is: rather than burying it, it's trying to find ways to keep writing on that slate as it progresses, because it's the only slate you're gonna get.

And for all that, I actually feel the most healed I've felt in awhile by actually going through it, and putting all that important stuff in the middle drawer of my old dresser.  And telling the niece and nephews not to touch anything in there unless they ask me first, the brats.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What's in a childhood romance?

I got my first kiss in kindergarten.  Nothing special, really.  A quick peck behind the school, in the woods where we weren't supposed to go but did anyway.  Still, it wasn't really a girlfriend.  But that was the closest thing I'd had to a girlfriend in my elementary school days.  And my junior high days.  And high school.  And college.  I was legally drinking before I had my first serious girlfriend, and while I've been spared the heartache of teenage romance gone wrong, I actually wish I hadn't.  All those fun and silly things associated with it, like being teased by friends on the playground.  Oh, I was teased, a lot, even for having a crush on a  certain girl, but not for being any girl's boyfriend.  Not even ribbing from my friends.  Never played Spin The Bottle, never been to a make-out party while the host's parents were gone for the night or weekend.  Never been in the closet with a girl for those Seven Minutes In Heaven.  Never held hands while walking in the hallway between classes.  No chasing after her while she giggles.  Shit, I never even went to either of my proms.  And at school dances, I had a total of TWO dances with girls, both of whom were friends of mine (though one I admit I had a major crush on). 

Maybe I have no one to blame but myself for that.  Whatever, not the point.  My shyness really isn't the topic of discussion.  And may not even be completely to blame either.  Whatever.  The point is, I feel like I've missed out on so much.  Even things I didn't think I'd miss, it turns out I do.  I see younger Facebook friends calling and being called "Boo" by their significant others.  As silly as it is, I wish that could have been a part of my life.

And now that I have The One for me, I'm too old, too "grown-up" for that stuff.  It sounds silly to call her "Boo", besides which she has a cat named "Boo."  Can't really play spin the bottle with only one possible outcome, and besides which, what if the bottle isn't pointing to her?  We're too old for Truth Or Dare.  And is it worth going into the closet for those seven minutes when the only people outside the door tittering at what's going on in there are her family members?  Methinks not.  Walking hand-in-hand through Metrotown isn't the same as the school hallways where you actually KNOW the people who see you two together.  And the friends who do kid me are good natured about it, but it's not like there's an element of sacrifice there, since my time with her isn't cutting into my time with them.

In some ways, it's nice, because in her case, she didn't have a lot of that either.  So in some ways, we're like two little kids, growing up and loving up together.  So I'm glad I have her for that, that we can experience that stuff for the first time together.  But still I can't help but feel like it's all ersatz, like there's no substitution for the real high school romance experience.  And any attempts to incorporate some of that in our experiences (outside the bedroom, you gutter-minds) is just going to appear and feel something like mid-life crisis and trying to recapture youth.

They say the past makes you who you are.  Still, I can't help but wonder if I'd have ended up that much different if I had at least experienced some of those things.  Besides which, sometimes the only thing I like about myself is that I have her.  So screw you, Past.  I don't care if I am all the more willing to uproot my life and get the fuck as far away from familiarity as possible because of you, you still fucking suck.

Still trying to get in touch with the inner child, in a good way if possible.

Sorry to those who read this.  I didn't really mean to sound as bitter as I probably do.  And to The One I refer to, I just hope you realize more and more how lucky I truly am to have you.  I love you very much.