My mother is by vocation a teacher. She spent years training to be a teacher. She is good at it. Her methods are effective and challenging. She loves it. She believes in it. I can hardly imagine her ever doing or being anything else; it is just who she is.
The sad thing is, she’s spent her entire adult life resisting that. Not the teaching – she does that (she can’t help herself!), and does it well – but the system. She hangs around the system, shouting from the sidelines, or just watching disconsolately. She dabbles around the edges: does things which are teaching but are not quite in the system proper. She behaves like this because the system makes her angry and afraid. I don’t blame her – she has a point. Formal education here is not as could as it could or should be, at least in part because of the mis-management of the system.
I do struggle with her approach: I see the damage her self-distancing has done to her (mitigated, of course, against the potential damage that ‘playing the game’ might have done her), and I also see the waste: what the system (and by extension the world) has lost because she has chosen exile; the ways she could have enhanced things; the difference she could have made.
So it came as a sudden blow – like a kick in the stomach – when I realised today just how close my path is to hers. I heard myself say (internally) that I couldn’t do something because of the frustration I feel when faced with the system. It’s a different system: church. But the fears are similar, and the effect of those fears…? Well, I don’t know. I just know how I felt when the blow landed today. Should I be preparing myself mentally, emotionally, spiritually for formal ministry of some sort? Despite my fears, disillusionment, frustration? Then I got to thinking….maybe it’s exactly because of those things that I ought to take the suggestions seriously. I could make a difference, precisely because I see and worry about ‘the system’.
So, reeling from being punched by God, I gave in. Ok, I’ll listen, and think about this, seriously. So later on I sat down and read through the ‘signing up for ministry’-type document I stashed away some time ago, unread. And it’s ok – I was relieved to learn that I’m off the hook, for the time being at least. I simply couldn’t take the vows, as it were: I don’t believe all of the things I’d need to believe to do that. So I’m clear for now – space to think and to be. Funnily enough, I have believed each of those things previously – it’s my new-found frustration and disillusionment that’s keeping me from the church. Is it keeping me from God, from my own spirituality, too? Possibly, actually: something else to think about.
I’d love to pick a fight with someone; with one of the people who have damaged my trust. I’d like to sit them down and tell them how it feels, how it hurts, what they’ve done, and then ask them what they thought they were doing, how they justify it to themselves. And maybe, in their answers, I could find enough of their fear, remorse, or folly to breathe new life into my faith. Would that mean I could believe in the potential of the system again? Or is the whole principle torn down for me now? If it is that, what next? The temple curtain was torn in two to let the people closer to God, right? As I stand in the ruins of this temple, do I now need to try to build it back up again, or to do something different, something new?