Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone. I know that it’s the day after Christmas, not Christmas itself, but I’m at my parent’s house and we had lots of company over yesterday. I did get to spend a couple of days with my nephews though, which is always worth it, and I got to watch a bunch of Dr. Who. However, what I wasn’t going to do was write any more blog posts than I needed to, and I had to write a post for my other blog yesterday. So, merry Christmas even though Christmas was actually yesterday. The fact the I felt the need to explain all of that probably says something about me. I generally need to be understood. Honestly, this is something that’s very important to me. I’m not satisfied when people simply accept my mistakes as mistakes or oversights. Instead, I want them to understand why I do things the way that I do them. I think that we all seek for understanding, and we all want approval.

This is something that I see consistently in the gay rights movement. All too often, disagreement is seen to be equivalent to hate precisely because we feel the need for the approval of others. We want people to like us, and we want to like ourselves, and so often we seem to have this overwhelming need to connect the two. If we are not liked by others, then we cannot like ourselves. Similarly, if we are not approved of by others, then we cannot approve of ourselves. Here’s the thing though, all of this comes from an incomplete sense of self. This is not to say that healthy people don’t feel these needs, I think that we all feel the need to be liked and approved. However, we shouldn’t be controlled by those needs. If someone’s disapproval seems to become a sign of disrespect or hate, then I am not seeing myself or seeing God in myself. I am not even seeing what the other person sees in me, instead I am seeing only my exaggerated image of how the other person sees me.

This is something that I’ve written about before, mostly because it is something that I struggle with. I can usually operate without the approval of others. I am capable of putting aside my need for understanding and approval in order to see things as they are, rather than how I am afraid they are or how I wish they could be. However, this isn’t always true. There are time when I need someones understanding or approval. There are many more times when putting aside my own desire for understanding and approval is very difficult. Honestly, I haven’t put a lot of thought into why I struggle with this. It’s probably something I should do. My first impulse is to say that there have been relatively few people in my life who have sought to understand me, but I’m not really sure that this is true. At least, not any more than anyone else today. I recently took a relationship needs test (I like a variety of personality tests… though this wasn’t one of the better ones) which mentioned that I might have a weak sense of self. At moments this is certainly true, but I’m not sure if its true in general. It is, however, something that needs more thought.

So, I got to spend all day yesterday and most of Christmas Eve with my family, including my two nephews, which was a lot of fun! My Christmas gifts were interesting. They were generally what I’d asked for, which included a bottle of Absinthe, a rubix cube (even though I hate puzzles), and sharpening stones for knives. I’ve found that, as I get older, it gets harder and harder to make birthday and Christmas lists. There’s honestly just not that much that I actually want. I asked for the rubix cube, even though I hate puzzles, because teaching myself to work it will be good mental exercise. I looked up the basics of how to do a rubix cube, and I’m already getting fairly good at it. However, getting the final side completed is going to be very challenging. Still, I think it should be fairly interesting.

Sander’s Family Christmas

Tonight I went to see Sanders Family Christmas at a local theater. I’ll be honest, I went because a friend who works for the theater asked me to come and see her work, not because of any particular desire to see the play. I’ve never really been fond of Christmas… well, anything. That probably sounds like a strange thing to say, and it’s gotten me in trouble more than once in Christian circles. The play was good though… well, it was good in that it was well-acted and well-produced all around. It was also the general mish-mash of Psuedo-Christian pluralism that generally makes me dislike Christmas. I’m not saying that anyone who mentions Santa Claus should be stoned, or even that it’s wrong to do in church, but this particular play had high moments and low moments. One of the low moments was when the matriarch of the family condemned Santa Claus (something about Jesus punching him in the face) right before the family happily sang Jingle Bells, which is clearly not a song with any particularly Christian influences.

This is the thing that gets me about Christmas… Christians get just about everything wrong. From the ages of Mary and Joseph (Mary was probably in her early teens [14 maybe] and Joseph was probably in his late twenties to early thirties) to the wise men (who almost certainly didn’t show up in Jerusalem until a year and a half to two years after Jesus was born). We gleefully mix hymns with clearly pagan songs, sing hymns with horrific theology, decorate small fire-hazards in our living rooms, and do it all without any concept of what any of it means or is supposed to mean. Honestly, I think if people were just more aware of what they were doing I’d be okay with it. There’s nothing wrong with Christmas songs or Santa Claus per say, it just that I don’t like them and I get frustrated with everyone who looks at me like an inhuman monster when I say that. Then again, I am something of a Scrooge and the words ‘Bah Humbug’ have been known to leave my mouth… frequently.

However, there was something from the play tonight that I did appreciate very much. One of the characters, the patriarch’s brother… I can’t remember his name (Sam, I think… or something like that) has something of a checkered past. When he gets up to speak he speaks of his past and of how the family has helped him change. One of the lines (and I’m sure that I’ve butchered it) say,’I’ve gotta reckon that God takes no account of talent. It’s a man’s character that matters.’ That’s the gist of the line… probably with a little Terry Pratchett thrown in since I was listening to Wee Free Men on the way home. This made me think about my own life. Most specifically the past seven(ish) years since I graduated from seminary.

Don’t get me wrong, I can me a right ass. I can be arrogant, judgmental, thoughtless, and stubborn. If the beginning of this post doesn’t prove that then the rest of this blog probably will. However, I’d like to think that I’m less of an ass and more caring, compassionate, and hopefully a little more humble than I was seven years ago. I’ve certainly learned a lot about life, about people, and about faith. I’ve been beaten over the head a few times, badly bruised both by the church and by those outside of the church, and broken repeatedly. Honestly, seven years ago I was full of myself and extremely in-secure. Now… well, I’m not sure that I actually have much to offer, but what I do have to offer I will.

As I write this I’m talking with my niece about colleges and about the degree program that I’m applying to. I remember when I first got out of school applying to one doctoral or Th.M. program after another and getting denied by one program after another. Now… well, I’m just hoping that they let me into an M.A. program and that I actually have what it takes to do well in the program. It’s scary, and a part of me is saying ‘I’m comfortable here and I don’t want to leave’. Another part of me is saying ‘It’s worth it.’ I still haven’t called Dr. Liederbach yet, but I’m going to. It might wait until January, as I’m sure all the professor’s down there are ridiculously busy at the moment, but I will call him, and I will finish my application and submit it. And then… well, I’ll hope that for once my desires line up with God’s (I wish I was better at that), and I’ll wait for him to kick me in the head if they don’t. That’s the thing I’ve learned more than anything else. What I want doesn’t matter if it’s not the same as what God wants.