Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hard Places

Happy Sunday Everyone!Good Morning, Happy Sunday, Greetings from the Trenches.

The sky from my patio perch is cloudy gray mixed with distance blue; I'm not complaining, though, because it's pleasantly cool. By Tuesday, it will be in the 90s again, as autumn continues to play a waiting game here.

I had an interesting conversation over breakfast this morning with one of my roommates, who happens to be a veteran as well as medical student. Despite my having not served, it wasn't hard to establish a meaningful connection. For one thing, I know the life and for another, at least right now, we're in the same foxhole. And even after we've advanced past the current obstacle, we'll always be comrades in arms.

This is something I can't ever quite get over. It surfaced the other night as well, while chatting with a young woman who is a student in a neighboring state. One minute we were strangers and two days later, we're pals. I'm talking, of course, about the instant intimacy that so easily develops between medical students and physicians. To a certain extent, it's as though our radar is attuned to picking up on another of our own kind.

Part of this may be simply due to the fact that we're all immersed in a community of intuitive types, but I've run into it in other contexts as well. Medical ones, that is. Where it hasn't always been so readily apparent, oddly enough, has been among ministerial colleagues. I've often wondered about that and I really haven't come up with a satisfying explanation. I've noticed that whenever I've met up with a minister who's been battered by a pastoral experience or had some sort of personal crisis like a divorce, the camaraderie is there, right off.

Just thinking out loud for a minute, I wonder if hardship is what makes the difference. Seminary is tough, make no mistake, but it's not tough in the sense that it confronts inadequate defenses, teaching you to build up new ones in their place. The ministerial focus is on formation, challenging one's thinking processes and predispositions, but it seems less painful in retrospect. As a result, it's not until life gets to that point, i.e. painful, that collegiality becomes so important.

As you've probably guessed, I'm not one of those who thinks pain is, by definition, a bad thing. Where it takes us can be destructive or constructive, depending on our disposition and willingness to change in response to its presence. The more willing we are to adapt, the more benefit we obtain. It's only when we become stubborn, resistant, and determined to head-butt our way through circumstances that are less amenable to power-oriented approaches that we come away with a headache.

Furthermore, it seems we most often find kindred spirits when we're in situations that tax our abilities to cope. Speaking for myself, those relationships are the ones I value most, those formed in hard places with persons I've never met, who nevertheless know what it's like to be me. And among whom I know what it's like, being them.

(Creative Commons image by Te55 via Flickr)
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