338. but first, updates
I’m just about ready to start writing again. I can feel it – big ideas wanting to burst forth onto the page and out into the world.
But first, here are some brief notes about what I’ve been up to recently.
1. Mars Hill Graduate School
School has been almost too amazing to put into words. Amazingly difficult, and amazingly rewarding, pretty much in that order. I’ll have much more to say about what I’ve been learning (about myself and about the Bible and Christianity), but not in this post (at least, not in depth).
2. My degree program
I initially went back to school to pursue a Masters In Counseling Psychology (MACP) degree. Well, things have changed.
It happened in my Hermeneutics class.
I don’t remember what that particular class’ topic was, but I do remember that, as an aside, the teacher said something like the following. “I know most of you here in class are on the MACP degree track and I suspect that some of you have made that choice because in some way or to some degree, you’ve been hurt by the church and so want little to do with that institution. However, I just want to say that it is precisely people like you that the church needs right now and if that statement resonates with you in any way, I hope you’d at least consider switching over to our MDiv program.”
I can’t remember a single other thing from that class because what he had said was so on the money. I remember my bike ride back home that evening (I bicycle commute to school). I took the scenic route and rode even slower than my usually slow pace, but my mind was racing. In a nutshell, here’s what was going through my head.
My teacher was right. I am avoiding the MDiv program because I don’t want anything to do with church at anything higher than the lay-leadership level. But I totally understand what he meant when he said that the church needs people like me – people who’ve been hurt in the past and who want to see the hurting stop. But there are already good churches here in Seattle (like the one I attend) and so the only way switching to MDiv makes any sense to me is if I go back to Hawaii after I’m done. But I LOVE Seattle – the city and the friends I’ve made here and if I stay in the MACP program, of course I’ll stay here. But my teacher was right.
And then the whole thought process would go back to the beginning and start up all over again.
I remember finally arriving back home and telling my roommates about what I’d been thinking about. They were all excited but they also asked why I couldn’t just switch degrees and stay in Seattle. And I don’t know exactly how to explain it, but it’s just so black and white in my mind (and this is rare for me). If I want to stay in Seattle, I stay in the MACP program. If I switch to MDiv, I have to go back to Hawaii. I’m pretty sure they didn’t understand why it had to be that way, but I was adamant. It was that clear to me.
The more and more I thought about it, the more passionate I became about the possibilities that the MDiv degree offered. And I hope this doesn’t hurt the feelings of my Hawaii friends, but one of the hardest parts of the decision was the leaving Seattle bit. I’ve really fallen in love with this city.
There was no final decisive moment when I made my choice. Basically what happened was, when it came time to register for my second semester, I had to choose between taking MACP classes or MDiv classes. By this point I had already made up my mind. Even though I couldn’t officially switch degree programs yet, I was given the okay to register for MDiv classes. And so basically, I’m now writing to you all as someone pursing a Master of Divinity degree.
3. So what are you going to do with an MDiv degree back in Hawaii?
Yeah, the other part of the switch that was really hard for me was the idea that after moving to Hawaii with my degree, the next step was planting a church there. And while the idea of moving away from Seattle broke my heart, the idea of planting a church scared the shit out of me.
I’ve worked for churches (I work for one now) and so I’ve been able to see from the inside, what it’s like to run a church. In fact, years ago, I was on the elder board of a church. I helped make hiring and firing decisions. I saw every element of the budget and I had the responsibility to question and vote on every large decision that came before the board. Basically, I got to see everything and while a lot of it was great, some of it was ugly, messy, and difficult. At the time I remembered thinking to myself, “why on earth would anyone ever want to be a pastor?” The amount of headache and heartache they have to bear borders on the inhumane. And for what? A position where people are constantly emailing or calling you with petty doctrinal nit picking, where you get called to hospitals to counsel people in the darkest times of their lives, where you get paid far too little for far too much work, where you have to balance care of yourself and your family with care of your congregation. I mean, really. Why would anyone want to have a job like that?
Ideally, I’d want to work for a church in Hawaii that’s already in operation, but honestly, none of the churches I’m familiar with would be open to the view of the Bible and the Body and Christianity in general that I’m discovering. (I’ll have much more to say about this in future posts but in the mean time, you can get an idea of what I’ve been thinking of from these previous posts.) And so basically, the only way I can see myself doing any kind of pastoral ministry is at a church that I plant, and that idea scares the shit out of me. That question, “why would anyone ever want to be a pastor?” is still with me only now I’m not asking, “how can anyone do that job,” I’m asking, “how am I going to do it?”
I don’t know.
4. The band, Harrison is no more
This is actually really old news but I don’t think I ever blogged about it. The official disbanding happened almost a year ago.
For the most part, it was an amicable split. and I say “for the most part” because at the time I was wrestling with some huge frustrations with the band. Actually, the last year or so the band was together was hell for me. I can say that now. There are lots of reasons why I couldn’t say that at the time but now I can. To put it mildly, it really fucking sucked.
After time away from the band and after months of counseling (see the next point), I have a much better understanding of what I was going through at the time and so I’ve made peace with that part of my past. I can actually say now that I hold no resentments towards the other band members. I couldn’t always say that, but I can now. Really.
Most of it was fun. The first few years were great. I still think we made some really, really amazing music. I still think we could have been and done much more than we did had we known then what we know now about ourselves and what we were doing, but it was what it was.
Would I have done it if I had known how it would have played out? No way. If I could push a button right now and undo my life in the band would I push it? No way. I don’t know if I can say the good outweighed the bad, but I can say that I would never give up on all that I learned about myself through my time in the band.
I sort of mentioned above that I’m in counseling. Seeing a professional, licensed therapist is a requirement for all students in the MACP program. And maybe that seems odd, but trust me, with the way they design their program, it makes TOTAL sense. See, a lot of what they get you to do during the first year is to learn about what they call your “style of relating.” And it took me a while to understand what they meant by that, but basically it means being aware of what’s going on inside you when you’re listening to someone.
For example, if someone tells you a story that is very similar to something that you’ve experienced, what do you do with that? Do you leave them and dwell on the misery (or joy) of your own story? Or does your anger spike if their story reminds you of an injustice you’ve endured in the past? What do you do with that anger – does it get in the way of listening to the person you’re with?
Learning to be aware of what happens inside of you when sitting with and listening to people can lead you to really deep, really dark places and if/when that happens, it can be really good to have a professional there to get you through it all.
I know it was/is for me.
So now, even though I’ve made the switch to their MDiv program and counseling is no longer required, I’m staying with it because there are still things I’m learning to work through. And even though, in the grand scheme of things, they’re not huge issues, they’re my issues and I need to work them out for myself (first) and (second) for those I will minister to after I graduate.
Honestly, counseling has been so good for me, I wonder why more people don’t go. Because in the words of the great Ferris Bueller, “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”
6. That’s all for now.