I can’t believe that I just completed my seventh week of CPE. The week was, probably, my hardest week “academically” but not emotionally. The kids in the PICU were in good spirits, with most there for post-op monitoring. No one yelled at me. No one paged me during the day I was on call. I did have to pray at the bedside of one woman who was actively dying and I did run into my first experience trying to minister to a family where the mother and father were not on speaking terms, but none of that really bothered me. I did have a cold through much of it so trying to talk to people without coughing was a bit of a challenge. Luckily Sudafed/Muscinex are a hell of a drug.
Academically, however, I had two verbatims, I had to plan an interfaith service, and I had to write a paper about an aspect of my operational theology. After reading my seven page paper out loud, I was then grilled on it. It was tough but not totally uncomfortable. I noticed that I spent most of my time responding to questions with my eyes looking down or away from the people I was speaking to. I felt a tad vulnerable so my response was to disengage from eye contact. I found that experience to be a little neat because, even though my body language was uncomfortable, I actually could tell exactly what I was doing. Every time I broke eye contact with a person, I knew I was doing that. I wasn’t able to stop myself from doing that but I could at least note what I was doing. I’m getting much better at parallel processing on the fly it seems.
Folks described my paper as a little heady, so I was grilled in an attempt to see how my operational theology was tied to my experience. I revealed some things to some folks, people understood me a tad better, and I made a few folks feel sad. To be quite honest, I’m a tad happy that none of what I wrote/or said is going to be forwarded to my candidacy committees. It was emotional but I learned a lot so, all in all, I had a good time.
One of the many things that stuck out at me was that people experienced my writing as something completely different how they experience myself in real-life interactions. Where they found my writing to be harsh, they all said that they experienced me as a very kind and tender person. Where my paper seemed a tad cold, they said that I’m the exact opposite of that. Ever since they mentioned that, I’ve been pondering what that means. If I am a kind and tender person (and I think that I am – too many people tell me that for me to discard it), how do I write in that way? Do I talk about rainbows and puppy dogs? Or is my inner spirituality tougher than that – reflecting the spiked leather jacket I use to wear? Is my outside persona a mask for what I really am? And is my operational theology at odds with my tender personality?
The idea behind the whole exercise was to see if what we profess matches with our thoughts, our actions, and our developing pastoral theology. There was no right and wrong answer (and there can’t be since every individual’s theology belongs to them). I’m not sure if my operational theology matches my pastoral presence but I’m hoping it gets there. My theology begins in a place of brokenness because that’s where faith found me. But it isn’t the only place where faith can be found. So one of my life-goals is to, somehow, create space for theologies that start from somewhere else. I’m not sure how to do that yet but, well, I’ll figure it out somehow.