Breaking the Glass
When I was doing my mid-seminary internship in Kansas City, MO, I was thrilled to find out that a college friend of mine was living a couple of hours away in Manhattan, KS. We met through the College Democrats club at Northern Michigan University, waaaaay up north in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Any further north and you’d be swimming across Lake Superior to Canada. Bree and I hadn’t seen each other in a couple of years, but when we found out that we were both marooned in the great vastness that is the central plains, it was a relief. She was married to a soldier stationed in Manhattan, and was expecting her first child. She didn’t know many people there, and when she finally had her beautiful son, I was lucky enough to make the drive over to see them at the hospital. Of course, she and the baby were beautiful, and for a few hours, I got to be me – not preparing-for-ministry-and-always-under-the-microscope Cindy, just Cindy. We talked about the baby and all sorts of things, but not anything related to church or ministry. I didn’t recognize it then, but that trip was absolutely vital to my summer – and ministry – because it taught me how important it is to have connections and relationships outside of the denomination and outside of the church.
This past week, a former instructor of mine pointed out that my denomination relies very heavily on doing, more so than some others. Busy-ness is often next to holiness, and the phenomenal demand of time and energy makes this ministry an all-encompassing thing. I have almost no staff (just one faithful and equally tired social services employee) and no one else (paid or volunteer) to be part of a ministry team, so I often feel like I am Burt in Mary Poppins, a one-woman-band/jack-of-all-trades, with varying levels of success. As I’ve mentioned before, I am in a very difficult location and have faced some exceptional challenges in ministry here. In this kind of environment, it is easy to get lost in this world, and I often do. Life becomes like living inside of a snowglobe: compacted together, the elements swirling around me, knowing that there is more out there, but all I can do is peer at it from inside the glass.
Family members and people within my church/denomination have been wonderful help, and I cannot thank them enough for having stuck with me through it and the countless hours of listening they have done, but as most ministers can testify, when you get together with other ministers, you tend to talk about ministry, and that fellowship is not always a respite. It’s vital, but not an escape.
For the last few months, I’ve been working on breaking the glass of my snowblobe – not in an attempt to escape or leave my ministry, but in a desperate and wild attempt to rejoin the rest of the world. To feel like myself again. The me that has been protected by Tougher and Tired Me, the part of my personality that has had to take over in order to survive. Starting this blog has been one hammer-swing at the glass. Identifying and dealing with my anxiety has been another swing. Trying to be firm in my boundaries has been another swing.
The best hammer-swing, though, has been my reconnections with old friends, friends whom I’ve known for at least a decade or two, and with whom I don’t just talk about work (in fact, we rarely talk about work). I’ve never stopped talking to/texting Melissa, my very best friend, and she is so often my life-line. A few weeks ago, I texted an old friend to ask a question and we’ve been texting ever since about everything BUT work. Another friend, Brandon, and I have suddenly been texting and sporadically chatting on Facebook almost every day for at least a week. With Brandon, I can be unabashedly myself – we’ve known each other too long for me to be anyone else. In a divine moment of clarity and open schedules, I was able to confirm lunch plans with not only Brandon, but Lissa, Chrissy, and JamieLynn, other friends since middle school whom I don’t see nearly often enough. I cannot explain these conversations and upcoming plans as anything but a breath of fresh air. I am already anticipating how great their hugs will feel, how hard I am going to laugh, and how much I am going to want to stay forever with them at the restaurant. I know this because they are friends of my soul.
I’m not sure if the glass is broken yet or if it’s just pretty cracked, but it’s moving in the right direction. Who knows, maybe someday soon, more of you will get to know the “real me.” I hope so, because I think she’s a pretty OK person.