My ministerial classes are coming to a close. I will graduate in May and have absolutely no idea of what I may, or may not, be called upon to do with my lengthy and expensive degree….but I have written about that before.
More interesting to me is that my class thinks and reacts as ministers now and that is a major life change for all of us; we are not studying a subject, we are ‘becoming’ and the process is fascinating, rewarding, and terrifying.
We are being asked to go very deep into ourselves in the current class. The rationale is that you cannot minister to others without knowing yourself and all the strengths, weaknesses and biases you might bring to the ministerial process.
The first project we completed was a very in-depth analysis of our own lives from birth to present, filled in on a very detailed form. The form is totally for our own use and not intended for any other audience. I started a bit stiffly, and then disappeared into the process. There is not enough room on the paper for things that came to mind. I dared to ‘name’ things in my life for exactly what they were for the first time, including being physically abused, instead of glossing them over. I could see a pattern I got stuck in, and the trauma it took to be released from that particular maze. It was an amazing, extraordinarily enlightening and painful process for me, and we are not done working with it yet.
Part of the intent was to study patterns of adult ‘formation’ and stages of life. I was familiar with the work of Piaget (and it still works) but not the work on older adults. Again, quite fascinating in its implications for my personal work, my teaching work, and my ministerial duties.
I now know that I am entering something left out of the books, but common to many of us reaching a ‘certain’ age….’geezerdom’. I have become a ‘geezer’ almost overnight.
In my teaching job, geezerdom consists of being the older teacher who is generally tolerated by the younger staff and administration, one who is now a ‘character’ rather than someone to take seriously. The geezer wins no awards, is not thought of when they ask for ‘leaders’ or when extra duties are assigned. The geezer might as well be retired because he is no longer ‘relevant’ to the rest of his co-workers who know they are younger, smarter, better, whatever.
Geezerdom occurs in family life too. Any parent can tell you that there are several stages in relationships with children. In the first, you are the ‘lawgiver’ or ‘he who must be obeyed’. By the teenage years all parents are competing for the title of ‘dumbest person in the world’ not to mention being “like totally unfair, ya know?”
There is a blessed, but short, moment when the children enter the world and fathers are suddenly in demand for wisdom and advice, especially in the case of flat tires, no matter how far away. Unfortunately, this stage is short because once the progeny have college degrees, they are the smartest people in the world.
I think I am entering the final stage where the original situation is reversed. The children would dearly love to explain how the world ‘really is’ to their parents, usually in words with few syllables so their parents can understand the simple concept being presented . Suddenly the parent’s education and life experience doesn’t mean so much, it is all so ‘yesterday’.
I have watched my generation go through the stage of talking to, or about, older co-workers or relatives as if they weren’t quite there, now I think my turn is coming. I am in the first, yet terminal, stages of ‘geezerdom’.
Fortunately for me there is one place where age, and wisdom if one has any, is still valued. It’s not the only reason I minister, but it ‘doesn’t suck, ya know?’ Thank God for a chance to be seen as a contributor at this stage of life!