Friday, September 5, 2008

When the tables are turned

I recently met someone who seems completely un-phased by my pastor-ness. That may seem like no big deal to you, but to me, who yields (apparently) one of the world's scariest vocations, it's novel. It's been years since I haven't been seen through the half-nun lens of my clergy collar. I have to admit it's intriguing. To be honest, I don't even really get it. I keep waiting for it to actually register and for me to be launched back into the land of the weird. It's so weird actually that it's almost creepy, does he not see my pastor-ness?? I know he knows. He's heard me preach. And yet, still un-phased. Did I mention I don't get it? I don't know what to do with it? 'Cause I don't. I mean, being seen through the half-nun lens is now so much of how I understand myself that I almost want to force him into that box so I can deal with what's *normal*--you know, the stunned silence...the endless questions about why and how and what that actually means. Because at least I know how to deal with that realm of things. But this, this is new, and in being new, it's a bit intimidating. Who'd have thought that I, the great intimidator, would be intimidated?

I know that other people have jobs that don't completely consume their conversations with everyone else. The landscape manager I met the other day definitely falls into that realm. I had a hard time getting him to say 2 sentences about his job. But being a pastor means talking pastor stuff a lot, or doing pastoral care, or answering questions about theology, or engaging in the "great debates" of our day, know, the 1000 other things that pertain to working in the church and serving God. So it's hard for me to fully register what it is supposed to feel like to have someone totally disinterested (or at least not obsessed with) what you do. Because what I do is who I am and who I am is what I do, so I'm not even sure I know what it is to be separated from that identity.

You could probably send me into counseling for that! It sounds a lot like a typical female issue--the one where women only know themselves as a wife or a mother or a caregiver and struggle when they can't fill that role anymore or when the shape of that role changes dramatically. So I know I'm not alone in that, "what do you mean, who am I apart from that? that's who I am..." feeling. There are thousands if not millions of others whose identity is intricately woven together with what they do, such that they hardly know themselves apart from those actions and that role. But somehow, knowing that, and experiencing that are two different things. And being comfortable separated from an identity that has been who I am, and probably has acted as a shield on various occasions, sort of makes me want to run and hide.

On the one hand, I can choose being seen through the half-nun lens which includes a whole host of stereotypes that I regularly try and combat, and on the other hand I can choose being stripped of my identity-comfort blanket and delving into a whole new definition of myself. Now, why is it that option B sounds so much more alluring and yet option A sounds WAY better?!?!

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