This is one old entry that will provide a glimpse of who Dr. Stafford was to me.
I don't know how much of my "emotionalism" is due to being tired and how much is due to the things that are affecting me right now.. I have legitimate reasons to be hurting--in fact, to be hurting significantly. I have always said that being tired, sick, etc, doesn't give me inaccurate or inappropriate emotions. It just magnifies or exposes emotions that are already there. So I need to treat my current emotions as legitimate things that must be very important. I'm not exceedingly tired; but the emotions are raging in me.
I met with Dr. Stafford today to try to hash some of it out. I needed to do it. The emotions are so violent that I couldn't rest without creating some waves. It matters on a number of levels, and it's all so complicated that I'm not even sure I can explain it.
I cried a lot during chapel today. i don't mean cried. I mean wept: uncontrollable tears and big, loud nose blows. I was embarrassed, but there wasn't anything I could do about it. I was crying for a lot of reasons. There were a lot of messages for me: about God being faithful, supplying needs, allowing suffering for certain reasons... None of it was new or earth-shattering. It was all stuff that confirms things I already know and believe. I'm not afraid of God failing me, I don't think. I'm afraid that my faith may not be as mature as I hope it is, as He calls me to be. I have to ask for His help in believing... That's something I realized, and I need to write outside of this entry about what I learned about my currrent place of faith in comparison to 1992.
I was also hurting deeply about the lack of community that I'm feeling in seminary. Initially, I was happy to view this whole endeavor as "school." I would go to class, do my work, get out into my ministry situations, etc. But I learned within the first few days that this wouldn't work. I can't do seminary without community. I need support from other students--and right now, unfortunately, I feel like I need too much from them, that I am too intense for them. I have always had far too much time to think about my own feelings and thoughts. If a professor goes off on a tangent that I can't quite follow or there is some discussion that isn't relevant to me, my eyes don't wander to what's going on around me. My thoughts wander inward--to what needs to get done, how I'm feeling, what I'm in the process of researching... "Small talk" takes a tremendous amount of effort for me--not just because of blindness but primarily because of my personality type.
Do my classmates need me? Part of what brought me to seminary--a big part--is a desire to educate the church about reaching out to and including people with disabilities. I hope they need this. I hope they want it. I also hope they need something beyond it from me. I hope this isn't all I have to give. I hope my contribution, my friendship, doesn't stop there. I don't want my conversations to stop at finding out about Meghan's training or how long I've been blind. I would like somehow to get beyond, "How are your classes going?" I don't know how.
What a mixed-up message!If it's so confusing to me, no wonder no one knows how to talk to me!
During chapel, the girl leading the music asked us to face the center aisle, look at the people across the aisle, and "sing the songs of community." I'll come back to this....
I told Dr. Stafford that I have discovered during these first weeks that a church member can cover a lot of things up. Whenever I was unhappy with things at church, discussions generally ended on the note that wherever I go there will be imperfections; and I got into the habit of thinking that I needed to learn to tolerate certain imperfections. I have suppressed my needs in the attempt to "tolerate imperfections." It had become a matter of choosing which imperfections were more tolerable.
But in seminary, everything changes. I have to stare my own attitudes in the face, look at where I am imperfect, confront my hurt and anger. I must forgive--and I must do it every day as my fellow seminarians know not what they do. But as a minister, I am deeply aware that we are called to a life of holiness, to go on toward perfection... And as a minister, the question haunts me. Can I condone these imperfections by failing to speak up, by going home and assuming that at the next church there will be other imperfections? Isn't that failing to do what a minister should do? At some point, I must speak up because the imperfection is wrong.
I started to list out the signs to him. "I can't sing..." I started to cry, lost the ability to speak clearly. "I can't read the words."
He asked about ways to address this.
"I'm not done yet." I went on to talk about everything. I discussed the community problem in great detail. "It's not just about me. It's about people." I talked about trying to invite people to church as a teenager. It's what teenagers do. "They wouldn't come back. No one talked to them." I talked about my discussions with people with disabilities. "They can't get in the building. They can't hear--not because it's not loud enough but because it's unintelligible. They're told that their child is too loud."
It was a very helpful discussion. We talked about some strategies to improve the chapel experience. I don't know what the answer is to the community problem. Probably prayer. He asked if I would be embarrassed if he spoke about me as an example. I said no. "I see myself in a teaching situation someday, talking about this stuff. I need to get used to it." It's very awkward emotionally; but it probably has to be part of the learning experience--for me and for them. God never said this road would be easy. I have been silly for imagining that it was all about preparing myself for things like speaking in front of a group, connecting with the listeners, or even handling practical details of ministry. All of that is important; but for me, the most crucial aspect is going to be learning how to be deeply vulnerable, expose things about myself that need badly to be exposed and that perhaps people are embarrassed to look at, and maintain some kind of personal space at the end of the day. I think about Dr. Hawkins maintaining an open door policy in her home... She is allowing people into most of her personal home during most of the time when she is home, and they are free to touch her belongings. But her personal space is her private bedroom. What is my physical/emotional/spiritual personal space? I need badly to define it. I think this would help me to feel a lot more comfortable with the idea of allowing the world into my personal life as a learning experience.