2.2.10

Ouch

Leviticus 6:21 “…present the grain offering broken in pieces as an aroma pleasing to the LORD.”

There is a 'form', it is mine, made of flesh and blood and it is being broken up...no...it always was broken up but I am being invited to gather up some of the bits and inspect them before the form is put back together in a newer, still imperfect shape. This is the 'form' in the formation. The 'a' in the middle is the audible sound of the 'a' of ache, it is also the 'A' of 'Hey!' - the protest - 'get off, leave me alone....can't I just stay as I am'. The 'tion' is harsh, it makes the mouth pucker as you spit out the ending, it is aggressive, it is 'shun', which is what I am tempted to do but trying not to, things need facing, preaching wholeness in Christ and not seeking it for myself would be like opening a can of baked beans to find sawdust inside instead. 

At university, for a joke, they would raid my cupboards, the Rugby lads, and take the labels off my tins so that I never knew what I was going to eat and on opening the can, it was always a surprise, sometimes pleasant, sometimes not. 

So formation is sometimes pleasant and sometimes not and at the moment, I want macaroni cheese and I'm getting sour plum tomatoes. I am discovering that there are ingredients inside the shiny tin that need their flavours enhancing, in fact, some of them are a little synthetic and shouldn't be there at all. I am asking God to deal with all this and make me fresh, change me into something altogether more nourishing and I'm currently just in the process of being liquidised. 

...so the things below do not reflect the ethos of my theological training institution, anymore than declaring than tinned tomatoes are sour and tinned macaroni cheese is pleasing constitutes truth, for judging by the latter assertion, particularly, it will be deduced that such responses are very subjective! 

 ...so without further ado...my form (hey!) shun:

...to be honest...all is not good here. This formation stuff is really tough. I keep hearing that the honeymoon is over. I think I am resistant. I am an idealist. It all seems so great on the surface, you know learning about God and singing and praying and chatting with people and eating together and doing your bit in what you hope are 'Kingdom-building projects'.

The reality is that it is also really hard to be an individual here. It is a real struggle to tame the inner rebel, to quieten the one who struggles against systems! There are many things that I must and must not do. There are the explicit rules: the clearing up your crockery routine, the way to conduct a lunch-time notice, the forms to fill out for essay submission. These can be learnt and adopted. These can be 'put on'. You learn, organise, plan and deliver - no depletion of self really, just conformity for conformity's sake, to keep everything smooth, to make life easy for everyone.

But then there are the other rules, the implicit ones. These become part of your thinking. It is failure to comply to these rules that cuts deep and has consequence. This is where the struggle is encountered over how to be who you are and how to surrender to transformation, whilst at the same time being wary about to whom you are surrendering: God or the institution or more likely God through the institution, for rarely are the two in disagreement or so it would seem in the end, but it's always worth asking!

So some of this 'formation stuff' seems to be about 'letting go', surrendering my will to the corporate will (God's will?) and sometimes it is done through gritted teeth.

....so I will go on a walk for 6 hours to satisfy 'creative week' requirements, even though I usually stay at home and work that day and I will try to blend in a little bit more and say a little bit less, perhaps, or perhaps not, I am working on that one and in some ways I absolutely love it here and also at the same time I want to run out of this place as fast as my legs will carry me and climb up some really rather small mountain, for I need to get to the top fast and have a bloody good SCREAM!!!!

....for now however, I'll grit my teeth, smile to myself, as I imagine myself getting a prescription filled out for a touch of 'eschatological tension' and I'll carry on loving God passionately, even though it is at times half killing me to serve him - death of self is probably what is really requires anyway!

Oh dear, quickly, open up another tin....

2 comments:

fibrefairy said...

you say "But then there are the other rules, the implicit ones. These become part of your thinking. It is failure to comply to these rules that cuts deep and has consequence. This is where the struggle is encountered over how to be who you are and how to surrender to transformation, whilst at the same time being wary about to whom you are surrendering: God or the institution or more likely God through the institution, for rarely are the two in disagreement or so it would seem in the end, but it's always worth asking!

So some of this 'formation stuff' seems to be about 'letting go', surrendering my will to the corporate will (God's will?) and sometimes it is done through gritted teeth. "

...which I find interesting as my experience of formation is almost entirely opposite- that there is no conformity, we have to find our own place in God, and in our vocation, in some ways some of the "givens" and the definites are removed, the suitcase is unpacked and the contents scattered and it is for each of us & God to repack together what we need for the onward journey. Maybe it is to do with the way different colleges approach formation - maybe some try to mould formation more? I don't know and there is probably no answer as everyone has only the one ( institutional) experience of priestly formation...!
I find it hard too - but in a different way to you, the untethering is freeing, but it can be a little scary too - I am not rebelling against implicit models of conformity as you are, I'm not feeling that they are being placed on me (others in my college may well do, I think it is probably personal as much as corporate) but I am finding my way in what is more of a messed up clothes pile than I had envisaged.

Isn't this ) both) what formation is about though? individual responses and experiences? I think a d*mn good shake up is essential as part of the whole process,..
I'm getting that at college and I'm getting it in Life too at the moment, really really hard, but all I can do right now is go with it and see where God takes me in the shaking.
Hope things shake out for you too!

Rachel Marszalek said...

Hi Fibre-fairy
Thanks for the analogy. You say:
we have to find our own place in God, and in our vocation, in some ways some of the "givens" and the definites are removed, the suitcase is unpacked and the contents scattered and it is for each of us & God to repack together.

I am really feeling the 'we' in this, that this working out is a very corporate affair and sometimes I am resistant to other people's inspections of my psyche. It is as if I am comfortable for God to 'search me and know my ways' but discomforted by his searching me through the eyes and opinions of others - cos it hurts!

In my suitcase there are a couple of warm jumpers of which I am very fond. They are very comfortable and they look great too and yet they don't get to go in the new suitcase and I am finding it hard to give these up and put on something altogether rather more but appropriate.

I am also becoming increasingly aware that the clothes I do wear are getting rather bobbly. New bobbles appear every day and I need to apply God like some kind of 'defluffer' so that he might remove them daily. Thankfully, he is very faithful and he is revealing to me that we all need a daily defluffing.

Thanks for sharing.

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