Seven Things I Did Not Expect

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October 6, 2013 by lucieromarin

1. That the lift would break down. So, you know how sometimes you approach a situation with dread, and you wish that something unexpected could happen to save you from seeing it through? Oh Lord, you pray, please make a giant storm shut down the city tomorrow so that I can’t get to such-and-such a place. And the morrow dawns, radiant and blue, to teach you that duty is not so easily avoided.

Well, a few years ago, I was teaching a course, and approached the last day of it woefully unprepared. I knew I was a full hour short of material, and as I stepped into the lift on Level 6, and pressed the button for Level 8, I longed with all my heart for God to save me from that hour. And the lift broke down at level seven, and remained broken for an hour and a half. 

Make of that what you will, I’ll be grateful for it forever!

2. That glasses would make a difference. You know how it always strained credulity to think that Superman could disguise himself just by putting on a pair of glasses? (I mean, didn’t Lois Lane actually look at either of her boyfriends?) Turns out, it’s actually possible. I’ll tell you story: one Sunday morning, several years ago, I slid into my usual pew, looked into the sanctuary – where the schola was singing Terce –  and thought, Who is that? There was a new priest there, and he was pretty striking. I thought some austere and exquisite French monastic must have come to visit us; needless to say, I did not immediately fall into a state of deep prayer, for I had to know who he was! However, as the chant ended and the priest processed out, I looked again, then frowned, then looked, then thought, “Huh?” and then blushed inwardly with the burning crimson of embarrassment…for it was our parish priest, wearing contact lenses. I’m not joking – the removal of his glasses changed his profile so completely that he was briefly unrecognisable. I’ll tell you what – discovering that the object of your admiring gaze is actually – one way or another – a family member, is just awful!

3. That I would see the extent of priestly power. I mean, we know in some vague way that there’s more to the priesthood than giving sermons, and we get that sacramental power is, quite literally, not-of-this-world, but…well, suppose you have a friend who you know to have an important job. You’ve heard him lecture about First Aid, you’ve seen him bandage wounds, and you know he doesn’t have much time for a personal life, because when he’s not praying or teaching First Aid he’s driving all over the city bandaging these wounds. Then, one day, you happen to walk into his office, and you see him staking a vampire and radiating with a power – invisible outside the office – that keeps all the other vampires out of the country. And he has a cupboard full of magic wands. And, also, his ambulance is a time-machine. Then imagine realising that you couldn’t tell anyone about it because you’d be spilling a bunch of stories that weren’t yours to spill.

Well, now you know how I feel.

4. That I would enjoy ‘Watership Down.’ I was asked to read it for a book club. I began it, full of misgivings. I mean, it’s about rabbits. It’s about rabbits getting from one end of a field to the other. How could it be any good?

Ha! It’s one of the best novels ever. One of the best. Not just good-considering-it’s-about-rabbits good, but if-you-haven’t-read-it-you-haven’t-lived good.

5. That I would love my mantilla. Okay, this is a blog for burnout recovery, so I’m not going to wax eloquent about headcoverings in church, but I will say this: I didn’t love it until people left me alone about it and I was able to grow into the experience in my own time. Then, it became mine. Now, I love my magic hood, but I also know that you can’t bully anyone into loving it.

6. That I would see Benedict Cumberbatch fighting Klingons. Hurray! Yes, I know I’m late to this party, but I only watched ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ today, and I didn’t know he was in it (not to mention the actor who played Mickey in Doctor Who!) It meant – over and above the intrinsic excellence of this casting – that I could think profound thoughts comparing English and American sci-fi (and acting) during prolonged action sequences. And these thoughts reminded me of why a Doctor Who/Star Trek crossover is a crime.

7. That people aren’t lying when they say forgiveness is healing. I know that messages along the lines of ‘Forgive’ and ‘Offer it up,’ and ‘You must bear with it for the sake of your marriage/family/community/church/the common good’ etc can be used to prolong injustice and protect perpetrators of injustice. But it isn’t always so. I expected to find that forgiving others would make me weaker, like a rag doll unable to resist being shaken. Turns out it’s more like consenting to the prising-open of one’s shell, only to find that it’s only the outside of you that’s broken – while the inside of you carries a pearl.

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