Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Processing can be very hard work!

Processing...that's what I lack time for!

Yesterday was a very full morning of CME on "Living in the Power of the Spirit".
It included an excellent Bible study on the work of the Spirit in mission, a liturgical overview of the Sundays after Trinity (which should surely not be "ordinary" in the sense of losing their unique and special identity), and the ever-inspiring DH talking us through some aspects of the work of the Spirit in church history and in our current di (or are they multi?) lemmas.

All good stuff - demanding action if I can only carve out time to pray, plan and pray again instead of simply reacting to the situations that arrive on my doorstep.
Oy vey - practical processing sorely needed!

Mind you, there's quite alot of the other sort of processing going on too.
You see, in the middle of the morning came a session that was always going to challenge me...
A session in which we focussed on the gifts of the Spirit - and yet again I found myself engaged in the business of comparing myself with others and finding myself wanting. This is deeply unfair to the speaker who was very wise in reminding us that spiritual gifts take many and varied forms...that we can be very slow to recognise the Spirit's work....that sometimes things just don't happen as we pray they will. Actually, his input was quite excellent...personal without being unduly so, challenging and reassuring, thoroughly engaging.

And I KNOW (goodness, how I know) how the Spirit works within the Sacraments of the Church...I too have had times when I've "just happened" to turn up on the right doorstep at the right time, without any clear sense of planning to get there...I too have had experiences of praying with people and seeing things change for them....and week by week, as I preside at the Eucharist, I know myself caught up in something beyond words....

I KNOW all that sort of thing is the work of the Spirit and I rejoice in it....but yesterday I found myself plunged right back into the teenage neuroses of the 14 year old who didn't receive the charismatic gifts when everyone else in the school CU did!
It was a wretched experience...something that has been endlessly useful in sermons and comforting for those feeling sidelined by God in the years since, but at the time, just miserable. I prayed as determinedly as I was able, and endless people prayed with me. Everyone else seemed to be cheerfully speaking in tongues...sporting their oh-so-seventies "Smile Jesus loves you" while I felt like the only one not invited to the party.
The charismatic revival at Hasting High School must have lasted - oooh, a whole week, I guess - and it was one of the most uncomfortable periods of my life.

Later, on the bus home, I had it out with God...
"What's going on? Why not me?"
and God said, with great gentleness
"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed...And also, Kathryn dear, have you tried considering the gifts that I HAVE given you in order to worship me? Because that's what tongues is all about"
And, for the time being, I understood and was glad.

But always, when conversation turns to "spiritual gifts" I find myself in a lather of insecurity. Yesterday we were invited to discuss with our neighbour our own experiences and my first reaction was to say
"Absolutely none"
I know full well that this isn't true, but it's hard to shed the legacy of that teenage disappointment, that the shiny things that others were displaying with joy and excitement were not being offered to me. And of course, God was quite right ( "nice of you to say so, Kathryn"!!! ) - I've never yet been in a situation where those particular gifts would have made a difference...

God gives the gifts we need for our situations.

But oh dear, I do wish God would help me grow out of the terrible need to compare myself with others and indulge in a wallow of insecurity. The human tendency to return to collect our unwanted baggage is disconcerting when I see it in others, exhausting when I recognise it in myself.

I know that my calling is not to be anyone but me, Kathryn...and that's actually quite OK.
No, thank God, it's better than OK....
And I'm given the gifts I need to be myself for God in this place.

Maybe one day I will reach the point of recognising that without having to go all round those familiar derelict houses first...or maybe not. But that will be OK too, as long as I remember that, as a wise and splendid friend pointed out to me
"He who calls you IS faithful"

9 comments:

Chris said...

Thank you once again, Kathryn, for expressing so well what so many of us feel!

"But oh dear, I do wish God would help me grow out of the terrible need to compare myself with others and indulge in a wallow of insecurity."

If you and God ever sort that one out, please let me know how ;-)

Song in my Heart said...

I think the ability to remain undoubtedly, gloriously yourself, even when those around you are susceptible to passing influence and collective, peer-led behaviour, is a mighty and strong gift.

That isn't to judge the speaking in tongues stuff as insincere or false: it isn't something I understand but clearly some people experience truth there. But why bother speaking in tongues if you can talk to God on the bus? How many people actually do that, and listen for the answers?

Word verification: "kingi".

God_Guurrlll said...

Oh how I can relate to your post. I find myself comparing to others all the time. I've had to stop myself and remember that it is God who gives the gifts and God gives plenty.

This last weekend was one of the hardest I've ever been through in my life having to leave my church. However I was able to do it through the power of the Holy Spirit. I was able to lead, preach and leave with grace. I could not have done it on my own, truly this last weekend was carried by God.

Sarah said...

And here’s me wishing I could be as gifted as you Kathryn! Wishing that God would give me your gift of seeing all those shiny things in what we do. Did you not know that your gift as an encourager is what keeps the rest of us going? Please don’t stop blogging, you are a great reflective writer.

Michelle said...

...my contemplations this afternoon (undertaken on a train out of the city) revolved around this too. Thank you for wrapping words around them.

I recall those charismatic groups, and am grateful to this day to the older woman running our group who said to me (amidst the tongues and wondrous noise that had left me feeling very "ungifted") perhaps what my gift was contemplation - and how blessed the group would be to have a contemplative in their midst. And offered me some reading...

ElastiGirl said...

thank you...i needed to read this tonight.

Crimson Rambler said...

I do recognize this "quagmire"...thank you Kathryn!
word recognition is qgzgg, which does just say it....

Sally said...

Thank you for this Kathyrn, like you I've been around the why not me loop many times.

What disturbs me more than anything else is the way that some folk have of making you feel second rate, or even sinful because you do not "possess" certain gifts. Odd that word possess, they are always God's to do as s/he pleases with...

Like you I find the sacraments to be a real channel of power and love, simple and profound and more easily accepted by many than an outpouring of prayer in tongues...

Ivy said...

So those feelings of comparing yourself with others doesn't stop with ordination and ministry huh? I didn't think so. I do that so often and feel so insecure at times. And of course doing CPE and group time makes that all come out. In the past 3 weeks I've done more crying than I have in a long time and my emotions are so close to the surface. Thankfully, I'm in a good, safe, group with an excellent supervisor. But boy, I want to work through this stuff and get it over with, though I know it doesn't happen that way. Thanks so much for sharing.