Do you remember this:
It was the big pop news story of November 2010. Jay Leno wanted the Tonight Show back. Conan O’Brien had been doing the show for months. Despite some creative internet rallying behind Conan (see above) Leno won and Conan had to leave his job of a lifetime hosting the Tonight Show. His final monologue on that show was easily the most gracious words spoken at that hour on national television.
You can read the entire speech here, but the part that sticks out the most, at the very end is this:
“All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere.
Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”
Last May I met with my Commission on Ministry for the first time, hoping earnestly for a swift green light for seminary. I had so much ministry experience already. I had an eloquent and entertaining spiritual autobiography written. I even had this darling dress from the J.Crew suiting that in a very feminine way said, “I mean business.”
Yet I left that meeting feeling like I’d been kicked in the stomach. “Do an internship. 6 months. We’ll meet you again after.”
Downtrodden as I felt, I chose not to grow bitter. I would do this internship. (I did.) I would invest my heart in this new church, even though I knew that would require crying through goodbyes. (It did.) And I would avoid comparing myself to others in the process who seemed like they had it easier. Even if they did, some also had it harder, and so what — it’s not a race to ordination.
Thus I chose not to grow bitter. My head had to tell my heart what do do, which hard for me because it usually works the other way around.
And here I sit, less than 72 hours from meeting the Commission again. But there’s something I can’t seem to shake. My blood pressure starts to raise when I think about difference between what I wanted to happen, what I thought God intended to happen, and what actually happened over these past 9 months.
“Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get.” Oh, Conan, you prophet-of-new!
So I’ll go to this meeting again, wearing an awesome outfit (think Kate Middleton at a business meeting), and ready to open up. And for good measure, I’ll try to channel my inner Conan. Graciously assertive. There’s the Commission on Ministry and there’s God, and there’s probably more overlap than I’d like to admit.
On a recent car trip, I listened to the On Being podcast where Krista interview New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. Kristof is known for shining light to some of the humanitarian crisis happening across the globe.
Kristof talks about compassion fatigue, which is exactly what it sounds like- growing tired of caring about the things we should care about. Kristof says, “And we all know that there is this compassion fatigue as the number of victims increases, but what the research has shown that is kind of devastating is that the number at which we begin to show fatigue is when the number of victims reaches two.”
Today’s daily office lectionary reading include John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (NRSV) I’m hoping anyone who reads this and is seminary educated will correct me if I’m wrong, but the language implies that love is something that happens one on one. Maybe we’re not really equipped to multi-task in love.
So when we hear accurate statistics like one million people die every year from malaria, mostly children under 5 and in 2010 there were an estimated 390,000 new HIV infections among children, our brains can’t really process that. Or at least mine can’t. However, tell me one of the kids I worked with when I lived in South Africa is in trouble and, woah buddy! My mama bear instincts will come out swinging.
And to bring it to a local level, communities are nothing more than web of relationships. One on one on one on one. At least for me, if I try function more than this way, bring on the compassion fatigue.
Riding the coattails of Ash Wednesday, here’s an interesting article on our unrealistic attitudes of death, through a doctor’s eyes from the Washington Post. Dr. Bowron talks about how our national move from a rural, farm based lifestyle, to an urban, industrial way of living and how we’ve lost touch with the “the natural world” as he put it. The article makes me wonder if our single day of the church calendar for ashes is woefully inadequate.
Less than a month ago, an aunt of mine was admitted to Hospice after almost two years fighting cancer. She stayed at Hospice for two weeks before passing. With all the grief in knowing she died too young, those were a holy two weeks. Friends visited her throughout the days, and her daughters and husband were at her side every night. I stepped up to support staff, delivering meals, babysitting kids and sharing the occasionally needed bottle of wine with a cousin.
For the last week, my aunt was unable to speak. We asked for no more non-family visitors and waited. Talking to nurses, pacing the floor, and waiting. This time reminded me of the time I sat in the waiting room with a friend in labor, waiting to hear that her baby was born.
Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.
p.s.- made it 2 for 2 for Lent blogging!
I’m going to put something out there: I really like Ash Wednesday. It’s not that I enjoy it per se, but there’s something refreshing about the notion that my humanity is not something to feel guilty about. Three years ago, when I was in South Africa, we took the kids from the after-school program down to the monastery for their Ash Wednesday service. Brother Andrew explained it to them brilliantly with his thick Scottish accent, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. It’s not a put down. It’s not saying ‘you’re dirt!’ but rather, let God do God’s job and you need to only worry about your own.”
Let me propose that this is the most appropriate day of the year to show up to church with a hangover. What better compliment to the ashes outside your head as a headache in your head- a reminder that you’re not invincible, but prone to gravity. The earthiness of our existence is inevitable. Embrace it for now.
“It is true that we make many mistakes. But the biggest of them all is to be surprised at them, as if we had some hope of never making any.”- Thomas Merton
p.s.- for those keeping track of my Lenten discipline, I’m 1 for 1 now. Cheers!
Recently a friend asked me what I wanted to get out of my blog. I answered honestly: I want to be a rock star who gets a book deal and have so much money, I don’t have to only shop in the sale section of Anthropologie. He then asked why I’m so inconsistent in my blogging. Sometimes legitimate things get in the way, like an aunt’s funeral and jobs that pay real money. Other times my excuses are lousy, like I got caught up in a 30 Rock marathon or I forgot.
I have a few ideas already lined up for these 46 days. (I’m getting ambitious and doing Sundays, too) Here’s hoping the other 41 ideas come to me in due time. Grace, my good friend, I hope you meet me often. And you, internet friends, please keep me honest and nag me if I forget. And let me know if you’re still actually reading this.
And thus began my idea for a discipline for this Lent: blog. Every single day. Something good. Title inspired by the Hyperbole and a Half blog post: This is Why I’ll Never Be an Adult. (It’s funny because it’s true.)
Oh the best laid schemes of mice and men…
The Episcopal Church: We don’t always do liturgical dance, but when we do, we do it very very well.