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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

people. PEOPLE! What Scurvey Luck!

(Bedknobs and Broomsticks)
This line from my childhood story on record has been bouncing around unrelentingly in my head over the past number of days. It's what the bear says after fishing in the beautiful briney sea and pulling up a bed filled with people. It was so not what he'd hoped to haul in.

And it fits.
It's great to theorize about people and how to get along with them, and how to be the sort of person that gives life to others. It's quite another thing to try and live the thing out. There are so many holes in my heart and in my perceptions. There is so much hunger and neediness and fear.
I love watching our dog Shadow when people come to the door, and especially when Brian comes home from work. She is unabashedly needy and enthusiastic. She launches herself at people, turns herself in circles, tries to grow wings and fly so she can cover mouths and noses with sloppy dog kisses. She never grows self-conscious or embarrassed of her neediness and enthusiasm. She doesn't appear to indulge self-doubt or construct alter-egos to hide her flawed self behind.

But I'm afraid my own neediness embarrasses me. My own vulnerabilites make me indulge in speculations and put thoughts in other people's heads. And worse than that, sometimes people just annoy me. It becomes a tricky balance to recognize my own frailties and acknowledge them, but not to the exclusion of all the simultaneous holes and neediness of the people I am interacting with. It's tempting to begin the compare my relational style with those of others. That's potentially dangerous because we all have our own strengths and weaknesses and the way to celebrate a strength is not by comparing it to anothers' weakness. It's cheap strokes to feel self-righteous by pouncing on someone else's apparent failures.

It's just sad to have a lightbulb moment and see that even when you are being "yourself" , you land up hurting and disappointing, ignoring and disregarding, or just generally annoying people. And you know that this phenomenon will never stop.

I don't know how anyone can stand to be a pastor or a counsellor. I imagine that people have some pretty massive expectations of their relational skills. I imagine that they are expected to be selfless at all times. To do this well and not land up drooling into a bib wrapped in a straight jacket must require a really intense knowledge of your place in God's set up. To do it well and maintain joy and peace must require a constant dependence on the Holy Spirit- a really effective running conversation with the Designer. And a pretty fine tuned knowledge of yourself- your strengths, weaknesses, temptations, typical pitfalls. I see these type of skills a great deal in the pastor of my church. I am hugely encouraged by this example. (I still don't want to be a pastor though....)

Ironically, I've also seen a lot of churched people fall into quite a trap of gossip and finger pointing. Alternately, a lot of nonreligious people have taught me respect for others, the guidelines of love and goodness, and the freedom in loving others without fear. That's not to suggest that church people got it wrong and yellow brand people have it all together relationally. That would be stupid and judgemental as well. It is evident that people who call themselves followers of Jesus don't hold all the relational cards (duh). Which leads me to think that it's more a matter of the heart? Do we get "points" for meaning well? Is it more important to remain supple and willing to learn, willing to humble self and ask questions? Sometimes Christians are so acclimatized to looking for categories of "right" and "wrong", that they forget that people's perceptions should probably trump all of that. And a lot of the time, relationships are just plain muddy. They require dialogue. Redefinition. Active listening.

People. What scurvey luck! A fish I could just fry and eat...

2 comments:

gloria said...

"I don't know how anyone can stand to be a pastor or a counsellor. I imagine that people have some pretty massive expectations of their relational skills. I imagine that they are expected to be selfless at all times." You know, I never thought about it that way, but I imagine you are correct here.

"And a lot of the time, relationships are just plain muddy. They require dialogue. Redefinition. Active listening." Right again over here.

Anonymous said...

Just today I confessed to the Program Advisor for my degree (MA in Leadership & Mgmt), "I don't think I have what it takes to be a leader!" As a co-leader of college team, I take a lot of crap and sometimes I just don't know what to do with it. I don't think we as people recognize the responsibility a pastor has and how much support he needs. You are right, we have huge expectations of our leaders, and when they fall short of our unattainable standards we roast them for lunch. I loved what you said about pastors requiring a "really intense knowledge of their place in God's set-up." I suppose we all need that!