My life as a College Grad

Friends of mine are graduating college from SPU and otherwise this year, and while more friends graduated last year this is the first time that I’ve really felt like I might have something to say on the subject that is helpful.

First of all, I’d like to note that my experience post-graduation is not the typical one, and moreover the idea of a “typical” post college experience doesn’t seem to be a very convincing concept. Let’s just say that what seems to be standard about it is the disorientation one experiences.

When I was about to graduate I had ideas. I had ideas about what I wanted to do, what my goals were and should be, and knew that above all what college graduate needs is a job. You might say I had lots of certainty.

Well, I prayed for a job. A couple weeks before I graduated I got accepted to an AmeriCorps position. Shortly thereafter I was assigned to a minimum security detention center as a teacher’s aide to detained hispanic youth.  I got what I asked for, but other things came too.

The job that had originally struck me as “my dreams/hopes/skills meet God’s plan/the world’s need in an awesome/fun/fulfilling way” was not all that I had expected. 11 months of taking verbal and emotional abuse from detained youth wears a man down. I did good things, I worked with some great youth and people on staff, but in general I finished my job feeling the most tired I’ve ever been. Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually exhausted.

SPU has a strange sense of “sexy” regarding post college activities. In my time there I noted a vague sense of the ideal being the job that puts you in a new city, a new country, a new place, doing something so different and new from anything you’ve ever done before. Serving the Kingdom in extreme ways = sexier than serving in “standard” ways. There was an element of which my job gave me that small ego boost, but only for about a month. I quickly found that social service jobs are not shiny and glamorous. It takes a large  toll on a person to work with at-risk populations. The sense of shiny participation in the Lord’s work that I guess I subconsciously felt would come along with doing something worthwhile…never did. I actually ended up feeling frustrated, despairing, and felt like I just barely survived most days after work. It turns out that getting your ass-kicked doing  still feels like getting your ass-kicked.

I didn’t get what was going on. God and I had many a conversation in which I told Him (bluntly) how I felt about my scenario. I’d prayed for a job. What came was not what I had meant when I was praying. I didn’t expect to get thrashed. Just what was He up to? Didn’t He care that I felt lonely and exhausted? Is this what I should expect when I pray “Thy will be done” in the Lord’s prayer?

These feelings don’t conveniently go away. It takes time to process through them. For me, it took a 2 month journey to Europe (which you can read about on the blog) and a 2 month job search post-Europe, and some new adventures along the way to come to the following points that perhaps might be useful to those of y’all on the way to graduation from college.

1) You should be prepared to leave certainty behind you on the journey. Quite frankly, the certainty I found myself with as I graduated was not faith. It was not equivalent to trusting God. It would seem that God wants you to trust Him, no matter what. No matter if it sucks. No matter if you hate it. No matter the outcome. Sometimes that’s absurdly hard. Certainty is not going to help you. You just don’t know what He’s up to in your life.

2) Sometimes you just have to choose. Life doesn’t come ready-made with convenient flags marking God’s will for your life. Obviously I don’t think God wants you to be a drug dealer, but honestly, it’s not always clean-cut. The “dream” job could be the thing God uses to break you down so He can build you up. The “crappy” job might be the thing that allows you to find the thing you needed to. I guess I would suggest that you be ready to think, pray, talk to people you go to for advice, and then just pick something honestly.

3) Community is important. SPU sexy job or no, you need people to support you. Being a human being and a Christian means that you’ll have to leave the “lone ranger for God” mentality back where you leave certainty. Think about that one before you decide to up and leave whatever community you may have become a part of.

4) Be where you are now. You may have graduated or not, but you’ll need to practice being. That means owning your limited time in the context you’re in now. Last 2 weeks of school? Live the dream. This time is special. Strive to be present and participate in what is happening TODAY. The future can be thought about and prepared for, but the future is directly linked with what you choose today. I’m saying this for me too.

5) Take a moment to be grateful and rejoice in the things you’ve seen, done, and experienced. Remember when you were a little freshman? Some of you I remember as little freshmen in Emerson Hall. Others I don’t. Either way, you’ve grown a lot. Experienced new things. Developed. 1% of the world gets to go to college. That’s you.

College is a huge experience. Life changes in it and after it. You can read my own pre-graduation thoughts on a page at the top of the screen if you like. Go team college grad. Go.

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Old Man Wisdom

I’ve been talking to my dad a bit more lately via the wonder of technology that is G-chat. I’ve been noticing that he says things that are surprisingly insightful. Surprising? Yes. Why you ask? Well, I think it has to do with me growing up. I’m realizing that I’ve spent most of my life assuming that while my parents are to be loved and respected that…well…they didn’t know that much. I was–in my own eyes–for a long time the smartest, wisest, and cleverest young person in each and every room in the house.  Parents were there to be tolerated and begrudgingly obeyed, never listened to as people with thoughts and opinions that might be valuable.

However, the older I get and the more I get to be an adult (albeit the youngest adult in the family) in relationship with my adult parents I start to notice things that give me pause and force me to re-evaluate my opinions about what they know that I developed from years 1-20.  I am taken aback by their generosity and patience. Things spring out of their mouths that help me to periodically understand that they do in fact get it. Not all of it to be sure, but they understand a good deal about where I’m coming from. Much more than I’d assumed they did when I was 18 and king of the known world.

We still disagree on things. I don’t know exactly where I got the assumption that we would ever agree on everything, but nonetheless in spite of all that I still find myself pleasantly surprised by what I’m going to start calling “Old Man Wisdom.”

Hmmm

There was a moment a few weeks ago in a churchy sort of meeting when someone there pointed out to me that I didn’t think like the rest of the group. She said, “You don’t think like a Presbyterian. We’re all trying to put things in boxes and find definite answers.” It was funny. She meant it as a jest and I took it that way saying, “Well, I’m glad I’m here then.”

But really, she’s pretty right. I’m not clean-cut Presby.  I’m a theological mutt. I have multiple different traditions of the Christian faith operating in my mind at once. Probably due to going to a variety of different churches. I’ll break it down for you: I grew up in high church Lutheran Liturgy and was a confirmed member, then I went to several non-denominational evangelical churches in high school and partly into college until I owned my need for more high liturgy, then I tried Mennonite church for a good while, then I went to an Episcopalian church, and then shortly thereafter I became an official Presbyterian.

When I became a member at church last year my mom said, “Going full circle, huh?” I was confused by this. When I asked for clarification I was told that my Great-grandparents were Presbyterian, my grandma was Presbyterian, and my mom grew up Presbyterian. Apparently the decision for being Lutheran came in the form of a discussion that looked roughly like this:

Dad: I’m Catholic.

Mom: I’m Presbyterian.

Both: Let’s bring the kids up in something in between.

Mom: Lutheran?

Dad: Sure.

Result: Chauncey will read and enjoy a Dietrich Bonhoeffer devotional for several years running, will love high liturgy, and have almost catholic views on communion.

I have these funny moments when I realize that I don’t exactly belong anywhere. I go to a Catholic midnight mass every Christmas eve and love it, but there’s always a moment when I can’t take communion and have decided not to trick them into giving it to me (anymore). At that moment I’m glad I’m not Catholic. Other times when I roll to an Evangelical non-Denom church I listen to the sermon and just don’t feel at home and want more complexity. Other times I’m in Mennonite church and the liturgy just doesn’t feel like home. Then I’m in my home church and I’m the only one not clapping because of the time I spent in Mennonite church.

Mennonites don’t clap in church. Ever. I love it.

Expressed Eschatological Hope

Yeah…I think that’s what’s going on here. Listen to the song in the background. It’s a song about fulfillment in a very eschatological way.

The Kingdom of God is about Kairos. That’s the Greek word for time, but time in the sense of “The Fullness of time.” There’s Kairos and there’s chronos. Chronos is time like we see on clocks and in the change from day to night.

I submit that this is how God’s timing works. Not in the clock time we’d like, but at the right time. In the fullness of time.

I think this is a hard concept for people who are so used to getting what they want when they want it. It’s hard for me. It might make more sense to people coming from a more agricultural background. I imagine that they understand that when the fruit is ripe, you may then eat it.

There’s this smell at my parents’ house. In our front yard we have a rainier cherry tree. In mid July after all the cherries have come and gone there are hot days in Bellingham (Rare, I know.) On these days my parents leave the screen door open. Sitting in the dark coolness of our living room one may sit and smell summer (Summer smells like cherry trees) waft in through the screens of windows and the front door. I wait for this moment, but it only comes when it comes.

It comes in the fullness of time.

PS: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is an awesome movie.

People are talkin’…this might be a bit snarky…

People keep talking about the end of the world coming or not on the 21st. That’s Saturday. I’ll be in Leavenworth on a youth group retreat. I personally don’t find the idea very likely or really think that the theology that represents the rapture is terribly respectable, however in reading my friend Jeff’s blog post this morning I thought a bit more about why it is that it’s so easy for me to mock the forecast of the rapture.

I guess there are several reasons that I would like to sound out.

Firstly, there’s the level of absurdity that comes in this. In the PNW we really struggle to have accurate forecasts of the weather. Let alone the end of the world. I don’t know that applying some sort of bizarro-world biblical mathematics (possible interdisciplinary course? haha. Just kidding…really. Don’t make it a course.) is going to accurately predict the fulfillment of God’s plan for the end of the world, rapture or no. I am skeptical of weather men and I will be skeptical of people who claim any sort of certainty regarding the dates that correspond to God’s will. It’s possible that I missed the memo on the Lord circulating His personal calendar….but I doubt it.

Secondly, I have beef with a theology that implies explicitly or implicitly that Christians are going to conveniently exit the world as everyone else gets the proverbial shaft. This is a deeply disconcerting view of our mission as the church. Frankly, we’re called to be human beings living as the body of Christ (broken like the sacraments) giving witness to God’s work and participating in it. It doesn’t make any sense to me that the same church whose martyrs suffered death in the name of Jesus and the Kingdom of God should realistically expect an out that doesn’t involve our being present with the world in which we are called to be salt and light. Moreover, let’s be honest, I don’t think that many of the people holding the theological lens that the rapture represents are really doing the due-diligence that comes with reading the bible. I think the issue is much more complex than a simple “See!! Look. This is what it means because…well…it’s easy to read it that way.” The task of interpreting scripture is undeniably complex and theological assertions like the rapture for me are on par with the weather forecast in the PNW and the “mathematics” of predicting God’s schedule.

Those are my intellectual reasons why it’s easy to mock the rapture. However, there are others too. The idea makes me uncomfortable and a bit scared. I don’t have all the answers and despite my honest (and in my opinion) fairly respectable thoughts above, I could be wrong. As much as God didn’t give the people predicting the rapture His schedule, He didn’t give it to me either. While I don’t believe in the rapture for aforementioned reasons, Jesus could very easily come back this afternoon without my say in the matter. I hope I’m ready…I don’t feel like I am.

There are still things I’d like to do (go swimming this Summer for example). There are still seemingly important things I think I would like to participate in, in the context of the world we live in. For some reason I really want to enter eternity as a person who has walked with Jesus in and through life. Eternal life with Jesus starts now doesn’t it? The most significant feature of eternity is God and people…and that is still the case now.

Maybe I like life here too much and can’t accurately imagine how abrupt arrival in eternity would be better. I think realistically that might be true enough, but I still find solace in the fact that the rapture strikes me as theologically and logically absurd. If God comes for Christians, I want Him to come for everyone else too. I don’t want to check out of the world like I would check out of a hotel.

When the gospel of Mark talks about “Keeping awake” I wonder if that ever means “be ready”. Can we be “ready” for the second coming? Do I even know what to expect?

CS Lewis talked of the second coming as the end of the play. “When the playwright steps on stage, the play is over.” Is it wrong to want to have some more lines in this production? Is it wrong to want to spend more time with the other actors?

More questions than answers, as usual. All things considered, I don’t expect the rapture on Saturday. I’ll be in Leavenworth, swimming across a stupidly cold river with high schoolers and God-willing playing lots of catch in the sun. If the end of the world happens to come, well…I guess I’ll keep doing what I do.

I figure I still don’t have that “math”-derived divine calendar yet, but then again…you don’t either.

The War of the Khaki Pants

When I was little I hated khaki pants.

I would get up (or rather be forcibly woken up) on Sunday and my mother and I would engage in the ongoing battle. Breakfast would be eaten, then there would be 20 minutes before we had to leave for church. In some ways I think I might have started some of our unpleasant conversations with the telling and counterproductive  statement of:

“I’m not wearing khaki pants.”

My mother would get an exasperated look on her face and say, “Yes, you are.”

My reply would be:

“No. I hate khaki pants. I’m not wearing them. I look stupid.”

She would respond with the classic, “You don’t look stupid. You’ll look very nice. It’s important to look nice.”

I would then go with the, “No it’s not. God doesn’t care if I look nice. I’m not wearing them.”

It would carry on in this fashion until she gave up in frustration on account of my overwhelming stubbornness (a Handy Family characteristic. They might have seen it coming.)

My dad would then say, “Chauncey, put your khakis on.”

I would reply with the, “Come on dad, they look so dumb.”

He would inevitably clarify one of two points:

A) “Just put them on.” End of conversation.

or

B) saying somehow indirectly but with clarity that “It’ll go better for all of us if you wear the khakis and you know it. Do us all a favor.”

I think I only won the battles that were a part of the war of the khaki pants a couple times.  Much like the times I won the “Eat your vegetables” battle by falling asleep at the table. They were bitter-sweet victories.

Lately, I’ve discovered an unpleasant reality that I have lost the war. I wear khaki pants to work. Often. I do so without complaint, irritation, or really even a second thought.

In talking with my friend Daniel today at lunch I realized that however much I have lost the war…I still don’t like the khaki pants. Wearing khaki work clothes all day is a good way to make me irritable, tired, and grumpy. Usually it has to do with the context of what I do after work and whether I get to change clothes.

All the same, I really suspect that somewhere inside me there may be an 8 year old version of myself plotting a strangely well thought-out chart with data and figures as to why khaki pants should be outlawed or made entirely optional (only to be worn by chumps).

I don’t know why I wanted to share this with you. I guess it was just on my mind. God still doesn’t care how nice I look. Elijah got to wear camel’s hair. Just sayin…