Doctor Who is by far the biggest fandom in my life, so I have t-shirts, an adult coloring book (get your mind out of the gutter, it’s just difficult af), and many things I have loved and lost over the years. At Alert Logic I had a TARDIS USB hub that makes the sound when The Doctor has on the emergency brakes. Someone stole it off my desk and took pictures with it all over Houston, then brought it back and sent me the pictures as “Sexy’s Day Out” or something like it. It’s an IT company filled with employees who are all obsessed with sci-fi. Back then, I also identified as Hufflepuff. I figured that’s what most clerics would be, and the clerical description fits because it’s not my job, it’s my personality.
I was nurtured to be that, and not because anyone else wanted it for me. I took it in by osmosis, and am very, very good at pastoral care when I have no emotional connection to the person. The problem is that even one session of pastoral counseling would make me take that person’s pain on as my own. Working in a doctor’s office gave me more clinical separation, but not enough. As an INFJ and highly sensitive person, my emotions were too large even after learning to tamp them down. I would be a horrible pastor or doctor, and not because I wouldn’t be good at it.
I would be incapable of refilling my own cup with energy, because Mrs. Jones is having an affair and her husband doesn’t know it, Mr. Smith is a teenage basketball player who wrecked his knee and his NBA dream is gone, and several Karens want to decorate my house before I get there. It’s always the Karens, because the parsonage is generally the Dear Aunt Sally collection, because parishioners furnish the parsonage with whatever they have on hand. When people have money, they have furniture they want to discard. Let me say for the record that I’ve loved all of it. I’m talking about the negotiations that happen when several families want to get rid of their old bedroom set at the same time.
The best house for me was the parsonage in Sugar Land, because it was gorgeous and in a great neighborhood, plus the church offered to let me paint my room any color I wanted. I chose pale yellow, and decorated my room around Elizabeth Arden’s Sunflowers perfume bottle. I wish I’d thought to get a Van Gogh print………..
In the living room, we had long couches arranged in an L, which created the perfect solution…. Lindsay and I had equal space.
My desire to be a pastor didn’t really come from preaching, though that’s the easiest part of it. It came from going to weddings and funerals from a very young age, learning what it takes to execute them as a leader. I listened in on conversations as much as I could, trying to wrap my brain around the heuristics that run in one’s mind as they try to figure out what to say.
My dad leaving the church impacted me in different ways, but one of the positives was getting away from that environment and looking back on my experiences to see if pastoring was what I wanted to do or what I had done. I decided, in the end, after years of discernment, that I felt a calling but not any drive or passion about it once my mother died. Before she died, it was being full of confidence that I’d succeed and regret….. and not because of other people. Because of my reaction to them.
It was more than being overloaded by other people’s emotions. It was feeling like I couldn’t help them unless I turned mine off. I don’t like doing it because it makes me seem colder than I really am, because people don’t see you protecting your own energy. They see you as distant. And even recognizing when people are saving energy is hard, because when you do, it doesn’t make them want to open up to you… they see their problems as too much for you when it is literally your job. I didn’t want to be a leader and for people to see I was a mess. It’s not interesting when I’m a private citizen, but pastors are known on a much bigger level than that. I’d like to be only capable of handling my own situation poorly rather than inflicting my pain on everyone else. I had enough of that in Portland to last my whole life, and not because I did it. I watched someone else do it and decided that wouldn’t be me.
The final nail in the coffin for the dream of me being a pastor was having watched said pastor go through the loss of her mother and what it did to the people around her. It changed her whole personality and the way she interacted with parishioners. No one would deny this that was in the room, even her, because it wasn’t all negative. The reason it had such a big impact on me is that my mother died, and my personality completely changed as well. The way forward was to write about my God moments here, and let people decide if they wanted to hear them. I could also keep my clinical separation intact, because sitting alone and writing is so much different than being responsible for your emotions while you read.
It’s also grief knowing you’re not stable enough to be that kind of leader when you know you were born to do it and would have been fantastic in some respects. I can’t say I’d have a really good handle on all of it, because I suck at admin and finance. I now wish I’d become a psychiatrist, but I also don’t have a great relationship with math and science, even though reading about them is absolutely amazing. I just have no talent with them myself. How I would have been a GREAT psychiatrist is being able to integrate therapy, but only on a superficial level, and medical school would have been the perfect answer because it would have beat enough emotions out of me that I could have functioned better with patients than getting a license in counseling. I can spend fifteen minutes with you, because that’s not enough time to uncover your deepest trauma, and that’s not a psychiatrist’s job. Medication is just a safety net. Psychologists are the real heroes.
I was born to be that person that listens to you for an hour and helps you relieve your pain, and realistic about how much it would wreck me over time. I know within myself that if I’d become a licensed professional counselor that I would be very much like Doc Martin. He was a world famous surgeon, and just one day developed a blood phobia and stopped. I have a feeling that I’d be the same- counseling people until it was too much and one day just walking away- seemingly out of nowhere because it’s not one thing. It’s compound interest.
Therefore, when I think of collections, I think of this web site, the legacy I want to leave behind. It’s not perfect. There are entries that are angry beyond belief, and entries that show my inner angel as well. For me, the first step to resolving my issues was realizing that I have an entire spectrum of emotions, and I didn’t need to berate myself so hard for the negative ones if that wasn’t my focus. That if I used my mistakes to learn, they wouldn’t be in vain. Therefore, I am relentlessly driven to understand myself (like all INFJs), laying it all out here because other people might say, “I’m going through something similar.” I am preaching the Gospels by living them, not standing on a platform and punching down…… my problem with Evangelicals in its entirety.
Who among us has the power to tell anyone they’re going to hell for any reason? Our religion is based on forgiveness. The Bible is also like the Constitution. There are many, many lessons we can learn from both, and let’s not confuse that by making people who’d be freaked out at the sight of a dishwasher the system administrators of our lives.
I picked up a great line from the Archbishop of Canterbury last week, because it’s fundamental to understanding this web site. In the Bible, there is no argument over the existence of God, there are only people’s reactions to God. What that means to me is that my Gospel is as relevant as Mark’s on a superficial level. That’s because who is to say that Mark’s reaction is more important than mine? He was just a dude.
I also make arguments for the reaction to God, not the existence of them (singular they to indicate nonbinary). I have said over and over that my God is the space inside me that tells me what to do…. That God lives in me, not the traditional Grandfather in the Sky. God runs through every piece of nature, because it’s not about whether God is present, but whether we are.
Having a relationship with God doesn’t require them to show up. It only matters that you do. God also brings many names. I believe in all of them. Allah, Ganesh, and Ra are all the same “person.” That’s because again, spirituality is based on your reaction to the divine, not because it’s really there. Wiccans tap into magic and nature the same way Christians pray and Buddhists meditate.
In that way, spirituality and magic are inextricably related. Even the Episcopal Church calls it “the mystical body of Thy Son.” That’s because when we access that spiritual place within us, we don’t know exactly what happens….. God is not the Actor, God is the Responder. When you get what you want in life, it doesn’t mean that God is a line cook at Waffle House. You don’t just order smothered, covered, chunked, and topped. The decks are random, and you just have to play your hand. God is what helps me decide whether I’ve won, and not by serving up the right answer. God is the place where I am allowed to struggle.
God can give me all the attention in the world when no one else should have to take on what you’re thinking and feeling. In that way, it is like an imaginary friend. There is no better comfort than an objective listener like a therapist, and when you don’t have it, your brain creates it. So, whether you believe that God is a figment of your imagination or a living deity, it still helps to pray. My philosophy on God is very, very much like AA. God’s function is to get your ego out of the way, so make it whatever you want. Your kids. Pepsi. Whatever.
How God helps me in particular is wrestling with other people’s emotions without the inconvenience of their feedback, because it’s not time for it yet. It’s time for me to struggle on my own until I’m not feeling uncertain anymore. It is because my feeling is that God is big enough to be your punching bag, and your very real friends aren’t. The argument for prayer is exactly the same as watching a candle flicker until it is still, trying to control it with your mind. The flame is a visual representation of your thoughts. If there is a grandfather in the sky, the way that image helps me is praying to someone with a tremendous pedestal so that they can see everything and how it works. It doesn’t help to believe they own the chessboard, but it does help to think about how objective a view God has.
Where organized religion comes in is that Jesus didn’t come here to comfort the distressed, he came here to distress the comfortable. (He was the embodiment of power with, not power over, and people hated him for it. He bitch slapped them with words, so they killed him. Seems legit.) No man is an island, so people gather to spread that message. It’s great when your community is focused on being Jesus, and not taking his message and turn it into the same one reflected by the people he hated. If Jesus saw the degree to which his name was used to justify wars, he’d have people’s heads, theologically speaking. Jesus and I are the same person in that our battle plans only include a strongly worded letter. And even when he chased the tax collectors from the high temple, I think the Gospel would have mentioned him physically whipping them. His answer was not violence, and for me, his message is concrete. If you have to fight people, use intelligence and not violence.
And people wonder why I love CIA and Doctor Who the same amount. Please. There’s even crossover, because both CIA and MI6 have been in Doctor Who over the years. Men in Black is the perfect marriage of Doctor Who and MI6, because their hierarchy is based on British intelligence, for some reason. But I swear to God, if you look at the way CIA and MI6 started, it is a stunning portrayal of both.
It’s also funny to me to think of Jesus as an asset and God as a case officer. I’ve been trying to put together a sermon for years on the ex-fil op it took to get Jesus away from Herod, but I just don’t know enough jargon to make it as hilarious as it ought to be. It could be argued that God gives Jesus alien intelligence…. and that did make me laugh…. this is because there is a direct correlation between God and The Doctor, or who we think God should be. We want God to be the person that shows up and saves the world just before everything ends in disaster, and not that disasters happen and anger at God is some people’s first reaction…. or more acutely, that they think God is angry with them, when that is literally impossible.
When God is angry at you, it’s not God who’s telling you what you’re doing is wrong. It’s you. If you feel anger at God for your situation, you’re angry at the world and attributing it externally, mostly because people don’t like to believe they’re capable of negative reactions and own their actions as much as they should because it makes them feel like a bad person…… not that they’re trying to let go of their own guilt and shame because surely they didn’t cause something bad to happen. God did. In no way do I mean natural disasters. As far as I can tell, Hurricane Katrina was caused by air and water- not gay marriage.
No, I am talking about the damage we cause other people without thinking, because when you don’t pray (the function, I don’t care about semantics), you don’t see anything from a third person view. You don’t talk about what your actions might have done to someone else, and that’s the best reason to pray, because it is literally the forgiveness of sins through the practice of forgiving yourself and trying to do better in the future. It all comes from you, raising your self confidence because emotional resilience is key to survival. Alternatively, if you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you always got.
Praying is a way to change that dynamic. Most people repeat the same patterns over and over because to embrace one’s true self causes conflict. You’re not acting the way you always did, and it’s uncomfortable, especially when other people are used to being able to intrude on your space and now they aren’t. Most people don’t think of relationships as a privilege. That someone is giving you their time, so treat it as sacred. Notice when people aren’t doing the same for you. Don’t let resentment build. If people don’t want what you want, acknowledge it and walk away. If someone also values your time, they will make no mistake about letting you know it.
But you just can’t make those decisions based on never looking at what’s really going on and counting on external validation of your behaviors, because then you’re not in control of your emotions. You’ve put it in someone else’s hands. I am firmly on the side of internal validation, and deeply in control of how other people make me feel because I talk about it. Prayer flows from me without ceasing. Just like Jack Lewis in “Shadowlands,” I can’t help it. I look at what other people are doing to me and how I need to change every minute of every day, but I can only do that in isolation with a 50 foot view. I don’t base my relationships on what people think of me, but how much they value my contribution to their lives, because I have a concrete idea of how long I’ll feel like I’m a problem before the relationship is too fraught.
It took too many years with my beautiful girl because as I’ve said before, she did so many things that made me light up from the inside that I believed we were building something and tearing it down simultaneously, and over time, the idea that we were tearing it down won because it was so confusing. We both proved to the other that we’d step in front of a bus for each other, no questions asked. I thought I was part of her support system because she didn’t have a partner, but when I found out she did, he was immediately folded in. He could also call me at 0200 and say something’s up. I was embarrassed that I didn’t know, because I had this wrongheaded idea that gender and sexual orientation were relative on the internet because without context, neither of you are thinking about the other’s body. Intimacy comes from sharing pain, not visual cues. This is because it had happened to me before, so that heuristic was way off when it came to her. This is the most mortifying thing ever…. I thought she was the same way because she said that if she was religious, she’d be pagan. I’d also never met a pagan woman who wasn’t bi, and now that thought makes me laugh so hard I can’t even breathe. That is because my pagan friends bear no resemblance to Outlander. God, I’m an idiot, but that’s the funniest reaction I had to something serious…… but if there’s something serious about it, it’s that we love the same things. Outlander is based on Doctor Who.
Even Jamie Fraser is named for one of The Doctor’s companions. So, we don’t love the same books/shows, but we love the same concepts when we tap into our God moments. For her, they come from magic, for me, they come from spirituality and faith…. not in God/earth magic, but in us and our reactions to them.
You can find evidence of it in everything I write, my collection and legacy that I existed…….. and hoping mine is the story that sticks.