“It’s your turn next!” my friend told me, less than a week after her wedding. I was amazed at the speed with which one can go from Singleton to Smug Married. (Sorry if much of my vocabulary in this arena is informed by the Bridget Jones books and movies. Okay, I’m not really sorry; I love them.) I wanted to remind her of how much we hated it when other people said such things to us back when we were both single, but I bit my tongue. “Have you tried that website?” she asked, and proceeded to tell me about a Christian dating site. You know the one. You’ve seen their commercials, in which ridiculously photogenic couples hold hands and frolic chastely and talk about how God meant for them to find one another, all to the sound of a song which is actually about falling in love with Jesus, not finding your schmoopie. No, I told her. I haven’t and will not try that one. Based on the commercials and what I’ve heard from friends who have tried it, I don’t think their particular brand of Christianity fits me at all. I deplore the idea of “finding God’s match for me,” as if there’s one guy out there God designed to fit me, and my ultimate purpose in life is to find him. I don’t buy that. Continue reading “On Not Finding God’s Match For Me”
This week is a time set aside by organizations and individuals around the world as Pastoral Care Week, to recognize the contributions of professional chaplains and pastoral counselors. Each year, a different aspect of pastoral care is brought to light with the annual theme. This year’s theme is “Prophetic Voice.” I have to say, this is not my favorite. Being a prophetic voice — a truthteller — is one of the most anxiety-producing parts of being a chaplain for me. I can listen all day long. I can be a supportive, non-judgmental presence. I can celebrate diversity of beliefs. I can sit in silence with the dying. No problem! But speaking truth, even getting confrontational? That’s something else entirely. I have had to learn to do it, and it is still not easy. Continue reading “A Most Reluctant Prophet”
As you might have guessed if you’ve read any of my other blog posts, my job can be pretty stressful at times. Those of us in caregiving professions can easily become exhausted — physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually — by the constant demands of helping others. Sooner or later, inevitably, we will experience what is known as compassion fatigue. It happened to me during my first year as a staff chaplain. (Actually, I’m sure it was happening to me during CPE as well, but it just felt like part of the gauntlet of that year of chaplain residency that we all had to endure!) I had not yet learned to recognize the signs. I was not getting enough sleep. I was eating unhealthy foods at strange times of day. For a while, I would burst into tears whenever anyone outside the hospital asked me how I was doing, because I was working so hard to keep my emotions in check at work. Continue reading “What’s Saving My Life This Week”
I won’t say I’ve heard it all, but as a hospital chaplain, I hear a lot. There are things people say in the midst of crisis that they wouldn’t say otherwise. Things that a few years ago would have made me blush or left me speechless, I now take in stride. When I was called to the room of an elderly patient who was actively dying, I found his children and grandchildren gathered around the bed. I expressed my sympathies, listened to their stories about him, and at their request prayed for a peaceful passing for him at the right time, as well as comfort and strength for his family. Before leaving, I asked, “Is there anything else I can do?” The patient’s grandson, a few years younger than me, asked, “I don’t guess you do lap dances, do you?” His mother used his full name as she smacked him in the back of the head, looking at me apologetically. “What?” he said. “Not for me, for Grandpa! You never know what might help.” Continue reading “I’m Hard to Shock Anymore (Even When I Get Asked for a Lap Dance)”
Social media have the power to connect people, to spread knowledge and information, to allow communication across cultural and other barriers. I have seen such things happen during my time on Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately, I have also seen the dark side of social media, and another perfect example reared its ugly head this week. Under the hashtag #FatShamingWeek, tweets like the one above (which is one of the less offensive, I’m sorry to say) attempt to make overweight women — because most of the tweets are aimed specifically at women — feel unattractive, ostensibly “for their own good.” (I’m happy to report that there is now a counter-movement and many have posted tweets under the same hashtag expressing pride in their bodies and respect for others regardless of size.) I don’t know who started the hashtag, or how they think this will give anyone motivation to lose weight (when in reality, fat shaming more often leads to gaining weight), or why they believe someone else’s body size is any of their damned business. Continue reading “Fat Shaming Week, Imago Dei, and Incarnation”
The dating world can be tough when you have a job that quite literally scares the hell out of some men, and makes it hard to meet people “the old-fashioned way.” Guys I work with are out of the question, because I am their minister. Sure, there are some cute young doctors, but what if I date one, then he has a rough night in the ER and finds himself in need of the kind of support often provided by the chaplain? How awkward would it be if the chaplain on duty were his girlfriend, or worse yet, his ex-girlfriend? I think my no-dating-guys-I-work-with rule is a pretty good one. I spend a lot of time at church, which is often suggested to me as a good place to meet like-minded individuals. Yet I’m sorry to say there are absolutely no single men at this particular church.
When meeting someone new, one of the first questions is usually, “What do you do for a living?” You know how it isn’t polite to discuss politics or religion with strangers? Talking about my career brings up religion, whether I want it to or not. I can sense discomfort from the other side of the table, as the man across from me tells me about his devout parents who make yearly trips to Israel, or reminisces about the church camp he went to as a kid, or jokingly confesses all the reasons he is certain he’s going to hell. Then there was the guy who responded with, “A minister? Ooh, that’s hot. I went to Catholic school, and there was this one nun . . .” I don’t remember the rest of his story. I’m sure my brain blocked it out as part of some anti-creepy defense mechanism.
Bars aren’t my usual scene, and even when I am in one (on a rare night away from work), I mostly stick with my friends. Not being of the female body type that most often gets attention in bars anyway — I am instead “short and stout” as one guy bluntly told me not long ago, which made me feel like a damned teapot — I rarely have to contend with questions from strange men. There are exceptions, however, like the time I was part of a bachelorette party last year. I left my table of party girls to go order us some more drinks, and a man approached me at the bar. “Are you one of the bachelorettes?” he shouted over the loud music. I nodded. “What are you, like a bridesmaid?” he smiled. “No,” I yelled back, “I’m the officiating minister.” He couldn’t think of anything else to say, and was gone before the bartender finished mixing our drinks.
So, like a lot of twenty-first century singletons, I turned to online dating sites. At first, I was upfront about my vocation. That got me a few very strange emails. Some were from Christians who felt the need to share with me their belief that women couldn’t be ministers. Their messages were made up mainly of quotations from the apostle Paul about women keeping silent. It was tempting to thank them for enlightening me and sarcastically tell them that I had never heard those Bible verses before. But since silence was what they felt God had intended for me, I thought not replying was my best option. Another email was short and to the point (so much so that he didn’t waste time with punctuation): “It’s okay you’re a minister but I’m a f—ing atheist myself. You’re still kinda cute so if you don’t have too many sexual hangups hit me back girl!” I could not make this stuff up if I tried.
Eventually, I decided to be a bit more vague about my job description in my online profile. I was still honest about my beliefs, just not about the fact that I work for God full-time. I got more responses this way, and exchanged emails with several men. Of course, then there was the question of when to drop the Jesus bomb. I found it was best to wait until some initial communication had taken place. If a guy doesn’t get to know me at least a little bit before he learns what I do, then I’m forced to compete with his preconceived notions of Christians and ministers, and it seems I always lose. Waiting until the first date (or at least the first phone call) to lay this on him gives him a better chance of seeing me as a whole person. The results have been mixed. Sharing with one guy about my sense of calling nearly made him choke on his beer. “What’s that like?” he laughed. “God just showed up and said, ‘Hey, Stacy, get off your ass and work for me’?” We didn’t have a second date. Another man was okay with my being a chaplain, but was horrified to learn that I’d done mission work. From the look on his face, you would’ve thought I’d told him I strangled puppies for fun. One guy said he was very impressed by what I wrote in my profile about my theological beliefs, which were quite different from his own. So I went ahead and laid out for him what I do and how being a chaplain has affected my understanding of God. His response was simply, “Wow. That is pretty damned cool.” (“He’s a keeper,” I thought.)
One of my colleagues told me, “You’re a woman before you’re a chaplain.” And she’s right. I work so hard trying to make sure potential romantic partners see me as more than my job that I can lose sight of that fact myself. Yes, I’m a minister, and an intelligent woman, a slow but determined runner, a sci-fi geek, a caring and loyal friend, a voracious reader, a kickass team trivia player, an aspiring author, and lots of other things. All of them add up to an awesomely unique dating experience, for the guys brave enough to see more than just the “Rev.”
I was sitting at the bedside of a tearful patient, a woman hospitalized with pain and bleeding after her fifth consecutive miscarriage. A few hours after she checked in, she got a phone call from a family member telling her that her youngest sister had been killed in a car crash. Her nurse asked me to visit her that evening, and so I sat, holding her hand, telling her how sorry I was. Then she said it. “I know they say God won’t put on us any more than we can handle, but I . . . I just . . .” She fell back against the bed, sobbing too hard to speak.
“But it feels like more than you can handle right now,” I offered. She nodded and squeezed my hand. Continue reading “Why You’ll Never Hear Me Say “God Doesn’t Give Us More Than We Can Handle””
I’ve never been a big fan of the word “Lady.” In my mind (having been raised in the American south), I picture ladies sipping tea on the front porch, quiet, genteel, not a hair out of place. When I was growing up, all I heard about ladies was that they didn’t do whatever it was that I was doing. A lady doesn’t run indoors. A lady doesn’t slouch. A lady doesn’t talk with her mouth full. A lady doesn’t interrupt. A lady doesn’t jump on the bed. Being a lady sounded like no fun at all! Continue reading “About the title, part 3: Lady”