Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Working through the Matrix, or, Struggles and Humility

It's odd, sometimes, to see the ways that life may form apparent coincidences. At times, I want to be like Morpheus from The Matrix and assert that there is no such thing as coincidence, only providence. And me being me, I might say only Divine Providence.

But I don't know that I can do that right now. It might be too audacious of me. But at the same time, I do sense a prompt based on this past Sunday's gospel reading and some of the commentary I've heard about it. I feel like those things are prompting me to take a look at where I am now and where I've been over the past five-ish years.

So first, the gospel reading. It's the one from Mark's Gospel where Jesus makes a visit to his hometown, but after he's already begun his ministry. It's the one where he's quoted as saying "A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house."

There's lots to dig into here, including an apparent mention of his siblings (who aren't his siblings, according to some people) as well as how I've related this phenomenon to going back home for the holidays during college. But this particular blog post isn't so much about my commentary and interpretation of this particular reading, as much as the serendipity or providence of how this reading has shown up for me multiple times.

Two times in two days. This gospel reading has been referenced two times in two days around me.

It's been invoked as a means to think about personal struggles and the ways that we are humbled. And we are humbled, of course, to become more like Christ; more of what God needs us to be.

It's been related to me by two different chaplains. Maybe they both participated in the same chaplains' study group here on base, I don't know. But at any rate, the questions have been asked:
What have you struggled with?
How has it humbled you?
Where is God in all of it?
Five years ago I was was newly married. I was a part time ninth grade English teacher at North Lakes Academy. And I was beginning the deacon's formation program in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota.

I'm still happily married (Amanda and I are talking about buying a house!) I don't work at North Lakes or in the classroom anymore (although I do consider myself something of a diasporadic educator). And I don't really hang out with the Episcopalians anymore. Not in any official capacity, anyway.

My exit from the formation program resembled something of a spectacular ball of flames, falling from the sky. It's hard to come back from that, when part of your descent was characterized by the leaders and mentors you thought you had suddenly aren't there... so when the flames are out, the mentors are not there to offer a hand to pick you up, dust you off, and tell you that you'll get it next time, kid.

But then again, I think I need to own my own actions, right? I think I was too audacious. I think I got too full of myself, and I think I thought of myself as already being a prophetic religious leader, a chief in the young adult tribe, and voice of the proverbial "nones," who were my peers and leaving church in droves. Obviously I had the answers that blue haired churchgoers wanted and I even started a podcast to tell them so (which had, for the record, an even shorter lifespan than my formation career).

But at any rate, I think I got ahead of myself with the leadership of organized religion. I hadn't earned anything yet. I didn't have any formal training (my time in the formation program was very brief) and nothing like an internship. I didn't have any actual leadership experience in the organization, just a lot of ambition and big dreams. I hadn't really proven myself yet to the existing leadership. So I think I caused a lot of the struggle for myself. And one way or the other, I was brought low. I was humbled.

So now, here I am. Through various steps I enlisted in the Minnesota Army National Guard about two years ago and I am working to qualify as a combat medic. I have already earned my National EMT certification. The training has been long, hard, and challenging all around. The Army is a humbling organization. Some of you, dear readers, know full well what kind of humility that a trainee is given, face to face with the drill sergeants.

In addition to joining the Minnesota Guard, I've still been "teaching;" like I said, I think of myself as a diasporadic educator. Teaching isn't my full-time gig anymore, and I'm not teaching in a classroom. I'm using my skills with the Scouting movement, both as a volunteer and working as something of a camp counselor (it's not a summer camp; Base Camp hosts school, Scouting, and other groups all year). I also taught confirmation at church this year. In comparison to the way that I ran a classroom at North Lakes, teaching confirmation is also very humbling. Not having my own classroom, in regard to confirmation, Scouts, or otherwise, is also very humbling in itself.

But all this work is very rewarding. It is empowering. Thinking about my emergency medical training, I'm getting ready to jump into some of the worst situations humanity has to offer, both in a military sense and a civilian one. I'm getting ready to meet people in their darkest times, haul them out, patch them up, and send them out again.

Maybe that's still audacious. Especially thinking about it as a career, since it constitutes a career change. I was just getting established at school and here we go, changing things.

But I know that I would not be here if I had not been previously humbled by my struggles  I would not be becoming what God wants me to be here, had I not struggled and been humbled before.

Look at that. It's all about death and resurrection. I still need to step out in faith each day. So maybe, in a way, Morpheus was right.