I got caught up in the stress and bullshit of a lot of other people, and that was no good. I began spending more time following after institutions instead of Christ, and that just about killed me. From where I am sitting, the best approach looks to be one of seeking someone who will help me to walk on water. What I really need–what I’ve desperately needed for too many years to count–is an outside advocate who will go to bat for me when I am up against too many detractors and naysayers. Lots of people seem to have them–why can’t I track one down? What I’m talking about is an advocate or mentor who isn’t invested in me simply out of familial relations, and isn’t a supernatural Advocate or Mentor whose will I am constantly second guessing since He/She is invisible and doesn’t speak plainly and directly to me the way living human beings do.
I’ve had these guys come into workplaces who seem as if they sort of wanted to take it upon themselves to be my mentor–but, their brand of mentoring was to basically tear me down to being about five inches tall and seek to build me back up to being whatever/whomever they envisioned I should be (I am being charitable when I assume that there was some intent there to eventually build me back up). Guys like BD and MCE and J at UW–real assholes and idiots who had spent the past thirty years of their lives bouncing from one failed consultancy to another, charging companies out the ying-yang for their so-called strategic input.
Frankly, an advocate is much more valuable than a mentor. Mentors are typically full of themselves, and once they’ve gotten the green light to be your mentor (which I’ve personally never given anyone–the powers that be just seem to think it is a nice idea) then they get all full of ego and start preening themselves like peacocks. And, if you think that only males can have big egos, you haven’t worked for enough people.
An advocate would be utterly exceptional. Of course, family members more or less are your advocates, but they kind of have to be. Even then, you tend to get a lot of negativity, criticism, and family members asking things like: are you sure that’s what you really want to do? Of course, they are just trying to be helpful. I get it.
But, when you reach a point where you are ready to take your dream out into the world and make it real–you need a sidekick or an advocate to make it happen, or you just go nowhere. Steve Jobs had Wozniack. Gates had Ballmer and a lot of his daddy’s money. Bush had Rove. Trump had a lot of his daddy’s money. I imagine Zuckerburg had a sidekick or two, though I haven’t really delved into the early history of Facebook. The guy was at Harvard, and you usually end up there because you have more than just brains going for you–you have a network of advocates. That’s the real thing the rich have that we don’t–forget about the money–it’s the network of people willing to go to bat for you because your daddy did them a favor once upon a time.
I don’t have an advocate outside of family. I haven’t had one for years. Even my best friend in college was reluctant at a key moment in our friendship to pool our resources and prepare for a NYC move and conquest.
I am not denying that there are probably a few exceptional souls here and there who fly solo and don’t really have any talent, money or looks to back them up–it is all pure ego, faith, faking it till they make it, etc. But, for every person you might encounter like that, you are going to encounter a million who think they have what it takes to fly solo, and they crash and burn, and a few thousand who succeed because they have an advocate or network of advocates.
If I’d had just one person–a pastor, fellow parishioner, someone…anyone…validate my decision to be down here, I probably wouldn’t be in the place I am right now–running on the fumes of what’s left of my faith that this was really God’s will. To be for sure, seminary hasn’t put a dent in my Christian faith–my faith in Jesus is actually much stronger now that the last vestiges of a historical foundation have been ripped out and I know all about what we don’t really know. The thing about faith is that it really is faith first and faith last, and the knowing part of it is something concrete and palpable aside from empirical evidence. So, my faith in its general sense is rock solid, more solid than it’s ever been–but my faith in the fact that I’m doing the will of the Lord by being down here is shaky, dodgy and hanging on my the barest of threads. When I told my pastor, she seemed surprised and didn’t really seem to want to provide much more than the barest outline of how the ordination process would work. She was adamant about me coming under care of my former church in Austin. My dad said I should consider a PhD in Psychiatry or something. My wife said I should think about a school of social work. Other family members didn’t say much of anything. My mom had always been convinced that my little brother would be a pastor and I would be involved in politics. Former coworkers whom I told that I was going to seminary said nothing at all–I have no idea what they thought about it. Down here, the new pastor of my old church seemed quite ready and willing for me to come under care, and then seemed to backtrack quickly on that and stressed that I should try to go back up to my church in Waco to come under care. The same thing happened with the contact at the presbytery when I finally got a hold of her (and these people were highly unresponsive). Nobody had said a word about the $1K psych eval–the Student Affairs VP sprung it on me during a meeting where she was very emphatic about us getting on with getting these things done. I rushed into it only to find out as I was signing up to do it that it cost $1K. This was about the time I was still halfway convinced that I could come under care sooner than later. Then the presbytery pulled that rug out from under me. And, my pastor seemed to have little or no interest at all in discussing it with my further.
At this point, I am done with this particular denomination–I am almost 100% certain about that. If I go on to become a pastor, it won’t be with them. However, the idea of being a pastor or chaplain has started to wear on me. I am not necessarily a nice person all the time. I don’t believe in putting on a show of fake niceness in an effort to be what you think is being Christlike–we are all struggling to be more Christlike, but this is one area where I am strongly against “faking it until you make it.” I will take a real person with real, admitted problems–but who has a genuine desire to follow Christ more and more each year–over a fake, nice, church-y person who is mostly interested in the career that they will have with their denomination of choice and thinks that being Christian primarily consists of perfecting an impeccable worship service and sermon and working to create the air of Jesusness about them when they are out and about town–while still leaving open just a slight room to “be cool” and rock out to some secular rock music and have a beer.
I am completely convinced that almost no Christian in the history of Christianity has really done what Jesus has asked us to–at least since the Edict of Milan. We are all quite comfortable in how we live and how much control we wish to exert over our charitable selves. And, for the most part, I don’t have too much of a problem with this, except in our history where we’ve been complicit or condoning of slavery, Nazis, butchering Native Americans, etc. However, to argue for a Christian church that is so radical that we are all homeless and live as mendicants or communists with a lower case “c” is to go somewhere that I am not prepared to go, especially now that I am a father. As a father, I want my son to have more or less the same childhood I did, only better where it can be better. I think that’s the dream of most American parents–I don’t want my son to grow up in a commune being a free range kid who is unsure of who his daddy is or was.
Which, all of this is to say, that I am hanging on here at school now and waiting to see if any of the job feelers I put out will amount to anything. If nothing comes out of them by then end of May, then I will probably be here for the long haul. And then, after that, I will likely move on to being a Hospital/Hospice chaplain or seeking out a PhD in some easy-to-obtain topic like English or History–something that works well with my MDiv..like English Lit and the American Church, etc.