Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The waiting is the hardest part


I haven't heard from the Boston Seminary yet and it's been 5 weeks since I sent in my application so I contacted the Admissions office yesterday and they said my folder is with the Admissions Committee right now and I should be hearing from them early next week. Yay!

In the meantime I've gathered all the necessary paperwork for my In Care application and my pastor will be mailing it along with her recommendation to the Association's Committee on Ministry this week. Once they review the application they'll contact me to let me know when I can come in for an interview. It may be too late to get on the schedule for the April meeting, if so I'll have to wait until May.

Also falling under the category of "things-I'm-waiting-for" is my May graduation. We have Easter break this week but when I return I'll have SIX, count 'em: SIX clases de espanol left until my college career will officially be over.
The last time I wore a cap and gown I was graduating from high school and I remember feeling a sense of relief - that I survived the hell that high school can be - and a sense of dread, because I had no idea what it was that I was "graduating" into.
This time around couldn't be more different. It's not relief and dread that I feel, but rather pride and anticipation. I know what the next step is and I can't wait take it. And unlike high school where I felt like nothing I ever did was good enough, I know that I've worked hard over these last 5 years and I've earned the right to wear that robe and walk up on that stage along with everyone else.

There's one robe that I haven't yet earned the right to wear, and I discovered a few weeks ago that I'm reluctant to wear it until I have earned that right. Two Sunday's ago my pastor asked me to help her present a sermon that was set up to be a dialogue between the two brothers in the Prodigal Son story. We had fun writing and rehearsing the sermon and it went over very well during the service, but what stuck with me is what happened just prior to the service. I arrived early so we could rehearse the dialogue one more time, and to my surprise the pastor called me into her office and offered me one of her robes to wear. She thought it would be better if we appeared as "equals" while doing the dialogue.
She gave me the option of not wearing the robe if I felt more comfortable in my street clothes, but not wanting to appear as if I was uncomfortable with seeing myself as an "equal" I said I would wear it. She gave me her white summer weight robe and cinched it with a white corded belt. She helped me put it on, thankfully (who knew tying a knot could be so complicated!), but while she was putting it on there was something inside of me saying "this isn't right." I felt like I wasn't ready for it, like I hadn't earned it.
The fact that the robe was a little too big for me (she's 5'9, I'm 5'7) and I had to roll up the sleeves, made me feel even more like I was playing "dress up" - like I was trying on something I pulled out of the adults' clothes chest and pretending to be something I'm not.

When we stepped into the sanctuary to begin rehearsal, the look on the faces of the few early arrivals when they saw me in the robe only added to my feeling of conspicuousness.
I knew it was going to be a distraction. They've never seen me in a robe before and I didn't want them focusing on that when they should be focusing on the sermon. But still I soldiered on. I stepped up to the lectern and we began the rehearsal but I couldn't get comfortable. The sleeves were getting in the way when I went to turn over the pages, and just the bulk of the robe and the extra space I had to leave between me and the lectern made me overly conscious that I was wearing "a robe."
That and the sheer whiteness of it made me feel like a giant marshmallow, as if the Michelin Man had come to preach.
I had to take it off. I told my pastor that it was too distracting and I would prefer not to wear it and she was fine with it.

Would I have reacted differently if the robe was black and/or fit me better?
Probably not.
The bulk of the robe made me take up more space - literally and figuratively - it gave me a physical presence that I'm not ready to claim.
I felt like I had a giant sandwich board around my neck that said "Look at me! I think I have what it takes to be a minister. Ain't that a hoot?!"

When we returned the robe to the office, my pastor (sensing my unspoken uneasiness) told me that it's perfectly ok for lay people to wear robes during worship - it's the stoles that are reserved for clergy only. I felt a little better hearing this, but I still didn't feel like it was right for me. Not yet.

Part of this "earn it to wear it" mentality may be left over from my cycling days. If you raced you wore your team jersey with pride. If you didn't race you wore a plain jersey. Only "Freds" and wannabees bought and wore what we called "Pro Team" kits - matching jerseys, shorts, socks, gloves, etc. all emblazoned with the names and sponsors of the top pro teams. Even worse were those who wore replica World Champion rainbow striped jerseys or, horrors, the Yellow leader's jersey from the Tour de France. These were jerseys you had to earn the right to wear. And it irked us "holier than thou" racers when middle-aged, over-weight desk jockeys came toodling by us on their $5,000 bikes decked out in Pro jerseys thinking they're Lance Armstrong (as if Lance Armstrong would care!)

I wore my local team jersey with pride, and when I stopped racing I stopped wearing it. I didn't belong to that team anymore and I didn't feel that it was honest for me to present an image that suggested that I was something I was not.

That's how I feel about wearing the robe. I'll wear it someday. When I get to seminary, when I do my field education, when I can actually claim the title of 'seminarian' or 'aspirant.' Then I'll feel as if I'm growing into the role and it's ok for me to try on the "adult clothes," if only to get used to how they feel.


"Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have
Immortal longings in me."


--From Antony and Cleopatra




1 comment:

justcurious said...

Hi,
I was there during the service, though obviously didn't arrive early (probably I stopped at Dunkin Donuts for my infamous cup of coffee). Therefore, I didn't know of the wardrobe change. Honestly, it is probably something I would have noticed...more for how uncomfortable you felt than for any other reason.

Only you can decide when you are ready to don the robe. But I've heard you preach on several occassions and you have always 'knocked it out of the park'. I also know I am not alone in this view.

Normally, when a substitute pastor is announced, there is a minor 'collective groan'. Not that they won't be good, but...well....at our church we have a pretty high bar, since our pastor is superb. There is none of that when we know you are going to either substitute or join her. It's more of a 'yeah...let's see what Mo has to say'.

I don't think I'm speaking for just myself when I say that I feel I'm somehow along on your journey and watching you grow as a preacher. Sometimes you start off a bit shy, but then the message takes over and you are so strong. Your sermon on the Sermons on the Mount v Plains....is one of my favorites.

I consider it an honor to watch you grow and my prayers are with you over the next couple of weeks. The wardROBE is a secondary concern at least for me. You'll don the 'jersey' when you are ready.

Take Care,
E.