It’s been a long time time since I’ve last posted in this blog, and it’s a shame because I’d been hoping to post relatively frequently, especially for the summer. A lot of exciting things have been going on recently and even more exciting things are surely on their way.
TO CATCH EVERYONE UP
The most notable event that’s occurred, of course, has been my earning my bachelor’s degree in Biblical Text and Missions at ACU twelve days ago. It’s a surreal sensation knowing that I will not be returning to Abilene in August for another season of adventure and friends [and learning], but will instead be moving on to the next stage of my life. What all that entails still has yet to be determined.
I still haven’t fully been able to grasp or accept the reality of this situation, though; in fact, the only time I ever truly felt the exhilaration of being an actual college graduate was when they called my name to walk across the stage and receive my “diploma” (or purple tube with a paper from the Alumni Association asking me for money). That excitement was short lived, however, as three seconds later, the same guy called up the next person in line with the same monotonous affliction he’d used for my name, and the rush of emotion I had once contained was now gone forever and never to be seen again like the dodo or the mom from That’s So Raven.
WHAT LIES AHEAD
While my post-graduation life is still mostly TBD, for this first summer I will actually be working as an intern for Lifeline Chaplaincy in Fort Worth, in which my three co-interns and I will be meeting with patients at four different nearby hospitals in hopes of talking with them, praying for them, and validating them in the midst of their struggles and sicknesses. One can only imagine for themselves all that lies within this premise. It’s bound to be a summer full of reality checks, growth, emotional roller coaster rides, broken down walls, and, perhaps especially at the beginning…
We live in a society that has an “It’s Complicated” relationship with awkward situations. While we love watching them unfold with other people or with fictional characters–such as Buster Bluth shattering a pterodactyl skull on Arrested Development, Kevin Malone “bringing” his famous chili to The Office (a scene I still can’t handle watching to this day), or Greg Focker desperately trying to impress his future father-in-law with his made up story about milking a cat on Meet the Parents–we often have trouble confronting ourselves when it comes to our own awkward moments (unless, of course, we’re using a pseudonym and Jimmy Fallon is presenting them). Our natural inclination is to present our perfect selves to one another, to make ourselves presentable and save ourselves of any shame that might come about from revealing any of our flaws to other people.
However, any amateur realitologist (one who studies reality) will be able to tell you that every single one of us experiences awkward moments, whether it’s brought about by someone else, or ourselves, or whatever. It’s actually the first thing they teach you in Realitology School.
And this summer will be no different for me. You could even say that the first 22 1/2 years of my life have led me to this summer of awkwardness. Here, I will be encountering people in their lowest or one of their lowest states as I sit with them on their hospital bed. All the time they’d spent hiding their flaws with cunning or excuses or privilege will be swept under the bed and covered only by a thin blanket, a half-open hospital robe, and their own self-consciousness. And my job as a chaplain will be to help try and reveal the struggles that these patients are experiencing in order that they might offer them to God. Offering not only their sickness or injuries to God, but their whole selves to God. Offering their humanity to God. It is through this vulnerability that healing can occur, not in the body, but in the soul.
This is a skill that is greatly foreign to many Christians. We are afraid to reveal our struggles to one another–even to God. And it is tearing us apart.
So my co-interns and I were able to experience a bit of our own humanity here in this first week on the job. While we have not yet been able to visit any patients yet (we still need go through a bit more training first), on our very first day as a group we had to take some blood and urine tests to make sure that we were healthy enough to be spending half our days around sick people.
The scene here is set with your humble hospital hallway in a side office section with chairs lining the wall, a small room for individual testing, and a family bathroom that lies opposite the chairs. As we went one-by-one, all four of us–who had only met each other as recently as earlier that morning–stood and waited toward the end of each of our tests with a cup of our own urine for everyone else to see while we waited to give it to the doctor (or whoever) to process it. Even if we’d tried to avoid eye contact, it was almost impossible to avoid the fact that within 10 feet of us, a near perfect stranger who we were to end up spending the next three months with was holding a cup of their own pee in front of us. And we would all have to end up doing the exact same thing in front of them.
While this was certainly not the worst thing that could have happened to us, it still brought our group to a certain level of intimacy that is rarely achieved so quickly among really anyone. Most of us do not want to acknowledge particular qualities about each other–such as the fact that everyone pees, even the one female intern!–because we do not want ourselves to be vulnerable to one another. Ever since the first bite was taken from the fruit of the forbidden Tree of Knowledge (Genesis 3:7), humans have been afraid to expose themselves to one another, and even to God. We avoid with everything we have making our lives an episode of Naked and Afraid. But when we do that, we end up neglecting an essential part of our very selves. And the thing about God is that he’s a very all-or-nothing kind of God, so we must bring our darkest and most awkward moments to him if we want our relationship with him to be authentic.
In his book This is Awkward: How Life’s Uncomfortable Moments Open the Door to Intimacy and Connection, Sammy Rhodes says,
Awkwardness is an invitation to vulnerability, and vulnerability is where intimacy and connection are born…. The moment [Adam and Eve] began to tell God what they had done [Gen 3:10] was the same moment God began to cover their shame [3:21]. This seems to be something like a principle in the Bible. The more you get to know God, the more you get to know yourself in all your awkwardness; and the more you get to know yourself, the more you get to know God in all his grace and mercy (pg. 11).
Humans have been historically awful at admitting their weaknesses to anyone else; and this summer, I want to do my best to allow vulnerability and awkwardness to reign. Whether I’m talking with patients in a hospital or hanging out with close friends, I do not want to live a life in which I’m continually trying to hide who I am around people. I want to live my life a with a #NoFilter mindset. I want to “embrace my awkwardness” as Sammy Rhodes says (you can read his story in tweet form here) and let people know that I am unashamed of my flaws, because I will have no other choice when my flaws are the only things people can see. And I think it would be best for all of us if we chose to live the same way.
I hope to have a new post on my internship up every week, but until then, thanks for reading.