I sat in the office of my Ecclesiology professor anxiously as he read ALOUD the answers I had written to the assigned questions. Not really out of the ordinary, since it’s an independent study and all of our meetings take place in his office as he looks over my work. But there is still something nerve wracking about hearing your own thoughts read back to you.
He pauses as we chat about the Apostles and the role of Judaism in the early church.
“You’re a nurse, right?”
“Oh. I just assumed because of your name-tag and purple shirt. The nursing students wearing purple tops during their clinicals. So, what do you do again?”
Ugh. Double Ugh.
Ugh #1 (the smaller of the ughs): We have met before. We have had this conversation before. Repeating myself makes me feel unseen, Father. And, yes, I know we will probably have this conversation again.
Ugh #2: I hate this question. This goes even beyond a hatred of talking about myself. The reason I hate this question is twofold (apparently everything is going to be twofold today):
Reason number one I hate this question is that the answer is not simple. I cannot finish this conversation in one or two words. I envy people with succinct titles. Teachers. Doctors. Accountants. Astronauts. Princesses. I am usually lucky if I can wrap up this answer within 20 minutes. It’s complicated.
Here it is in a nutshell: My paid jobs are two part time jobs squished together to form a full time job so that I can enjoy benefits. Most days, it feels like two full time jobs with part time hours. They are both in ministry positions, one in direct service of college students and one at a more administrative level at our diocesan offices. Both are very important, time consuming and, at times, brain-meltingly stressful. Beyond my paid work, I can see the finish line of receiving my Master’s degree, but I’m not quite there yet. Oh, and after that I try to fit in taking care of a house, being a mom (to a nine month old who’s new favorite way of communicating is bloodcurdling screams) , a wife (to a wonderful husband who also works way too hard at too many jobs) and a human.
That last one is debatable. I think humans have sleep and nutritional requirements I’m not meeting.
Reason number two that I hate being asked what I do is that I’m not in love with the answer. I like the answer well enough.I like that ministry is actually a job, since most days it doesn’t really feel like work. I like paying bills. I like health insurance. I like feeding my family. I like not having to serve fries and medium Diet Cokes to total strangers. I like being useful.
I don’t like having to split my focus between two communities that deserve more. I don’t like the hours. I don’t like the stress. I don’t like dropping my daughter off at a babysitter. I don’t like the thanklessness. I don’t like calls that inform me that I am allowing Satan to corrupt our children. (true, and very long, story)
Now, I’m not under any false impression that I am going to love any career path I take 100% of the time. And, while I still hold out for a lottery win so that I can stay home with my family full time, I’m not under any delusion that our mortgage or student loan debt is going to magically disappear and give me that opportunity. But I can get so bogged down in the labels and the titles and the logged hours and…and…and…
It’s so easy to forget my purpose in the midst of my roles, both paid and unpaid. I’m supposed to help other people get to heaven and I work to be able to see them there myself. End of statement.
Easier said than done, right? True. I’m not saying being a good Catholic Christian is “easier” than my day jobs, which just happen to be ministry related. In fact, it’s actually probably a million times harder.
My point, I think, in all of this rambling is that I let the little, unimportant worldly things get in my way. And I let it happen all the time. I get bogged down and wallow in my hopelessness. I let the dark win.
And, maybe even a bigger problem would be that I let all the “what do you do?” questions cloud my view of answering the real question: “Who are you?”
So, maybe that’s the lesson for the day:I am more than what I do. Or what I don’t do.
What I do will change. Who I am will not.
And who am I?
Well, at my very core, I am loved deeply by my Creator. And once I come back to that realization, which seems like a daily journey sometimes, I can do anything.