catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 3, Num 6 :: 2004.03.12 — 2004.03.25


Afraid of becoming

Working at the church office alone on Fridays—the pastor’s day off—feels a little less like a desk job than other days. I leap unselfconsciously between my chair and the copy machine, feel free to groan with frustration when the copy machine jams for the fifteenth time, play the CD of the new liturgy loudly enough to rehearse my part in the company of a full “choir.”

On these days, I feel simultaneously better and worse about my church job, and my life in general. Without distractions, in the isolation of a big empty building in the middle of the cornfields, I feel both fascinated by the life I see outside my window and trapped in an environment that demands half my time, but doesn’t fully satisfy my calling.

In the past few months, fascination has generally been overwhelmed by anger and exhaustion. My attitude began to lose its life last fall and by winter, faced an expansive, barren cold. Insulated in resentment for everything that demanded my time and effort, but didn’t make it possible for me to live comfortably and without worry, I started to feel decay set in. I couldn’t discuss the possibility of taking on another responsibility or activity without feeling like I just wanted to crawl into bed and hibernate until, well, for a very, very long time. World Fare, *cino, church: everything became a burden I was too tired to bear and I began to hate those burdens for forcing me to stay awake. In fact, I looked disdainfully on everything that used to give me joy as my days became a more and more hopeless, lifeless tangle of obligations.

The realization of spring came on one of those Fridays. It was unusually warm for February and I was unlocking my desk drawer when the knowledge came to me: you choose to be this way. I was tempted to resist the cliché I seem to have read too many times on e-mail forwards, but the vision that came next forced me to accept the truth. I imagined myself holding onto my anger forever, setting a pattern for the rest of my life. I imagined doing risky, engaging, pioneering work for the years to come—and resenting every minute of it. I imagined myself becoming the person I most feared becoming, joyless and inarticulate and uninspiring—a little like Scrooge floating past myself ten, twenty years in the future. In that instant I realized that with the Spirit’s help, I could choose against becoming that person. My breath came easier than it had in months as I resigned the burdens of paying bills, scheduling three important jobs, and changing the world.

I recognize that winter is not over yet. I feel its chill most when we talk about the need to fund-raise again for *cino. But I also realize that I have the gifts of an appropriate fear of becoming who I do not want to become and blessed vision of who I do want to be. With the Spirit and the community of believers to hold me accountable to the vision, my heart will warm to become fertile soil for the gentle growth of spring and the wild beauty of summer.

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