"That's my mug!" moments

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Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

I sometimes fail to 'get it' and when I do I 'fail' to understand people maybe I then fail full-stop. It's a good job I understand that my status with God doesn't change and nothing I do can separate me from his love because I sure do feel separated sometimes from people.

I tend to be a bit breezy at times and I don't mean to be. I only really worry about the big deals in life - you know - death and disease and relationships (life, love and health-threatening stuff) things on that scale. Sometimes I just can't enter into other concerns compassionately and I think I might annoy people. One of my big wake-up moments in life was what I call the "That's my mug!" moment.

I was on teaching practice when I was about 22 years old and I entered the staffroom rather nervously in my first week to make myself a cuppa. It was thick in there with smoke and raucous laughter. I simply wanted a drink to scuttle out with before the next lesson's onslaught. I started to stir milk into my tea. A teacher then approached me to simply say, "That's my mug!". I smiled, possibly even giggled a bit, so convinced I was that this was a joke and a simply funny way in to bonding and striking up conversation with the new, nervous looking student - me. But, no, she was deadly serious. I had no choice but to swig a few gulps before throwing the rest away so that I could wash up and swiftly return her mug to her and I was left dumb-founded and really embarrassed. On a deeper level, I had been unable to connect with how important this item was to her. I hadn't predicted her response at all and was shocked by it. Because I probably showed by my face an inability to enter into an understanding of what I'd done and probably seemed unapologetic, I think I only riled her more. I might have even appeared a little arrogant.

Anyway, my husband and I keep falling foul of this kind of mis-match of thinking again and again. We are finding certain aspects of church-life difficult because we fail to take certain things seriously enough and I think we're upsetting people. We keep making mistakes. I've set up for holiday club, putting tables in the way of what should have been a space reserved for a prayer station, hubby doesn't take seriously enough things like certain cupboards belonging to certain people, teaspoons having to be counted in and back out again when you take them from one end of the church-building to the other. We sometimes fail to consult the right people over certain chairs or tables and where they can be put. We by-pass the whole financial thing time and again and rather than putting a 'chit' in for the chocolate and the crayons and the streamers and balloons etc that we've bought for youth etc, we just pay for it ourselves because it seems like such a hassle, writing the letter, including your receipt and then waiting for your cheque. But we are therefore not really providing the church with an idea of what all these things cost. The problem is with me is I can be a bit of a 'quick-fix problem solver' ie yes, I could spend all afternoon making the playdough and dying it different colours with food-colouring but then I realise I can prioritise other things by solving this one immediately, so I go out and buy the playdough but then can't charge the church for it because, well, you see, I could have made it! And so the circle of thinking goes.

Anyway, maybe I'm just shattered and I've taken on too much with a young family and a college course but we, particularly, I, keep getting into trouble and the human part of me sometimes wonders why do I bother... the politics and policies bit of church life is driving me crazy. I think I want to go into ministry but will I really hack it or will I just have the most ridiculous, breezy, crazy kind of church because quite frankly, if the members of my congregation lose a few teaspoons, I'll not be able to muster up enough concern to really care about it and perhaps this is not the mark of a good minister? I'll just go out and buy more spoons!

Things I find difficult about church-life:
1. Church, like every other place, has its 'in-crowd' and its 'out-crowd'
2. Certain people have access to certain cupboards etc and other people certainly do not have
3. Label everything and put it in boxes is the advice because people can't be trusted (Is this true?)
4. Ask for help because otherwise people won't offer
5. Everyone has their 'Yep, I'm here at the end of the service and no-one's speaking to me - wow - what an interesting piece of architecture that is - how long can I keep staring at this in interest? - no, I'm just going to have to go...' moments (it's not just me is it?)
6. These are problems at all churches, because they happen to be made up of frail humans, don't go running off to another church - it will only be the same (seeking reassurance with this one!)
7. Don't think that because you're a member of a Christian community that they will be nice to you, they will actually rather tell it as it is, but in love, of course!

HELP! I'm a sensitive church-member - get me outa here!


DaveW said...

Good post.

I tend to think of these things as being deliberately counter cultural when that culture is actually nothing to do with the kingdom of God.

I actively want to trust people. People are amazing with trust. Give it and they respond wonderfully, refuse it and they turn into little children.

eg I don't want to worry about expenses if I don't have to and I certainly don't want to play by a Christendom rule book (claim expenses and donate it to the church so we can claim tax back).

I want to encourage a kingdom culture of grace and gift. Counting the teaspoons does not fit with this so I won't do it.

If people are upset by gift and grace then I want to engage with their theology not collude with their mindset.

But of course I fail all the time.

Rachel said...

Thank you Dave, feeling particularly wounded today and needed to share but then after reading about the memo that has been passed around Lambeth Palace about Nazir-Ali, I really shouldn't be so sensitive. I think, very naively, I expect Christians to be like Jesus - that yes, they are right to point out my faults to me, but like he does, they might do it with more tact. I've had a few tellings-off in the last few weeks that have been really painful because of the words that people have used. Because I think, over-think, sometimes to a verbally crippling extent, about the words I use before I speak them, I expect other people to do the same. What actually happens is people dare to say things to me that they wouldn't perhaps say to other people because they know that I won't answer with sarcasm, jokes etc, I will take seriously what they charge me with and so it goes on in a vicious circle. I've got to toughen up a bit. My husband smiles and listens to my hurts and reminds me that the angels in Heaven won't hurt my feelings and this usually defuses situations and I laugh too, so aware that I am definitely the 'over-sensitive' personality type.

Sometimes, I believe too much in 'theodicy' - if that's the correct term, that suffering is good for you and it's all part and parcel of the Christian life and that these people who give me a hard-time are perhaps helping me to transform and become a better person but I'm beginning to think now that I might be wrong. This is a kind of 'self-flagelistic' kind of thinking that should be resisted and that what God wants us to do is build each other up and so if I seek to do this for others then I should love myself enough to feel worthy of this treatment from others and be less accepting of their difficult words.

Anyway, it's all a journey...on I march...thanks for your reassurances, they help set me back on the path upon which I'm threatening to take a U-turn at times

God bless

Gfeef said...

oh i'm with you. i remember thinking 'this is church, a place where people share Jesus' Love with one another' but then realising that i wasn't exactly always being the Jesus i expected everyone elce to be. Even when wasn't that far off I still needed to accept that church is a gathering of the broken not the whole, the diffrenece is that we know we are the blind leading the blind and don't pretend to have sight. still i think asboJesus 603 got it right, sometimes that system just doesn't make church a place you want to be.

Rachel said...

So good to hear from you Kate, thanks for your Christmas letter. I will send you a mail tomorrow with updates re life here. I'm never equpped with quips and I take what people say so seriously. Maybe the 'not quite feeling as though I belong thing is just something in my personality. Ahhh! It's all quite hard sometimes.

love Rach
Good to share vulnerabilities

Rev Tony B said...

In my first church there was a bitter little man, who had run that church his way for decades, and couldn't cope with people who did it differently. A young probationer minister like me couldn't help but fall foul of his regime, and I did, and he caused me no end of stress and grief. But I was encouraged by others, so kept on going. In my last year, he became ill with heart disease, went into hospital and eventually died. A week or so before his death, he was telling all and sundry what a wonderful minister I was, because I'd visited him and looked after him. Now, if only he'd said that 5 years earlier, things would have been a lot easier!

The thing is, being both a society of saints and a school for sinners can make it difficult to know what's going on. Because we accept folk, we get the ones nobody else would accept. And I think that is a blessing. It is well-disguised, sometimes, but in the long run it is a blessing. (They help us grow the thick skin needed by all ministers - as long as it doesn't become too thick...)

Rachel said...

Yes Tony
Thick skin under a cassock is probably a good thing - either that or a thicker cassock - Actually, I'm beginning to understand more and more the necessity of putting on God's armour...the Bible contains such apprpriate metaphors that can speak into so many situations.
God bless

DaveW said...

Ah ha,

There is my problem. You won't get me in a cassock - no never!!!

I opened and closed the WI carol service for the first time this Christmas, apparently it got reported back that I wasn't a proper minister because I was not wearing a dog collar (due to 3 shirts getting ruined that week by big black stains on he back - still not worked out from where).

Recently when on a hospital visit (on my day off) someone commented that they had never seen a vicar in jeans and a dog collar before - I said "life is full of unexpected surprises" but wished I had a better phrase.

believer333 said...

Excellent post.

Sometimes churches are just big clubs. I get tired of that also, as well, the endless rules.

Had to laugh over the need for rebates of expenditures. I usually just pay for things myself if I can, or else don't buy it. Don't think I have ever received money back yet.


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