"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Becoming friends

When I was young, teachers were teachers. They lived at the school, as far as we were concerned, and surely had no other interests than the subject they taught. Sometimes they would tell us that they had families, but part of us never really believed that. They were unseen and therefore not part of our reality.

The only difference was Mrs. Thurman, whose daughter had been in my class since first grade. I had been in their home. We played Trivial Pursuit. She made spaghetti with actual meatballs (something I thought only existed in the movie Lady and the Tramp and was surely too good to be true). She was also my ninth grade geometry teacher. And frankly, that was a little weird. But it was only weird for an hour or so a day, at the beginning of the year. Then I compartmentalized Mrs. Thurman again, with teacher this time instead of friend's mom. It was okay.

I had teachers I adored, but they were still teachers. They had no first names. Their mothers surely named them Mister and Missus at birth. I had teachers I did not quite adore, too, but they also were teachers. They were on the dark side.

Pastors were the same. Our pastor from the time I was twelve (until the time in my teens that I left for Anglicanism) took an interest in kids. He took us on retreats and outings. He was interested in leather working and golf. We got to know him. Still, he was our pastor. When our assisting pastor went to work for the region, he moved compartments in my mind. It was dissonant. He was the regional youth pastor, but we had some claim on him, surely, because he had been our pastor. My brother thought he looked like Jesus.

That worked through college. Professors, no matter how closely you worked alongside them, were still professors. And their mothers named them Mister, Doctor, Missus, Mizz. Surely. Very fore-thoughtful mothers, no doubt.

Then seminary happened and our professors were called by their first names. Allen, Rod, Ann. Still, they were professors. They lived in that category of teacher.

Except I went to church with Ann. And somewhere along way I had need to call her at home for something, which seemed at the time like a terrible no-no. You don't call your professor at home. That's why they have offices.

Our priest was supposed to be the same way. Priest, professional Christian who lived at Church the way teachers lived at school. Okay, by then I knew better. I had friends who were priests. But I had yet to have my own parish priest as my friend. Teachers and priests had not yet broken down the walls of their compartments.

And now, old person that I am. They have. Tonight I sat with Ann at dinner, not because she's my former Greek professor, but because she's my friend. We share hobbies together I'd never have expected (she knits, I spin... so we make stuffed sheep together to celebrate special people in our lives) and can call one another just to say hello. Heavens, she texts me. (And I her, of course.) I'd have never dreamed. And we were at dinner to celebrate that same parish priest, whose birthday is today, who broke that wall between priest and friend. Many have since, of course.

I still keep walls, because I am a pretty private person (who blogs, people are full of contradictions) at heart. But childhood me would have never thought of pastors and teachers on the inside part of that boundary line.

I still can't call my childhood teachers by their first names. But I have come to realize that one of the joys of growing up, and yes, growing older, is to come to know people as the multifaceted wonders that they are.

1 comment:

  1. I think you just very nicely outed everybody's dirty little secret about some relationships.
    On a related course, I could never call pastors/priests by their first names, even as the custom bent, until I was suddenly as old as or older than the particular clergy person. But, like every good sijo, there's a twist at the end. Because at a time when I did not call pastors/priests by their first names, there was a nearby lady pastor named Pastor Beth. And I noticed, eventually, that I had no problem calling her Pastor Beth. It surely shook my complacency/self regard.

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