Not that I’m complaining, but I didn’t know accepting $15,000 from the Louisville Institute to investigate the intersection of neuroscience and spirituality meant that 13 months later I’d be at a Winter Seminar. With other grant recipients. 3/4 of whom are PhD candidates or post-docs. Which leaves pastors in the minority. And we all had to write progress reports and “elevator pitches,” 3/4 of which were practically unintelligible to me. #humility
I was already feeling very insecure before I walked into this gathering, and unsure my brain was up to the task. In case you don’t know, the past 14 months (ever since I was awarded the grant) have been a little stressful. As I went running the second morning, getting ready for my own “elevator pitch” and feedback on my project, I realized my anxiety had burst forth in a strange way.
I kept looking for “my people.” I would hear someone say they were a singer-song-writer from Nashville, and I would rush up and say, “O, I have family in Nashville! Do you know Rad Foster?” “Umm, no,” would be the response, and my heart would sigh.
Another person reported on the racial aesthetic in the literature from 1910-1960. I knew better than to even try.
But the young Korean studying the relationship between the American Missionary Christianity and Korean theology and culture? “My father-in-law is from North Korea! And he’s a pastor!” We could be each other’s “people,” except you are brilliant, and me, not feeling so much.
The man who reported on sustainability and food as a theological issue for the church, and I’d think, “O! You are my people!” only to discover his theology was, well, let’s just say he talked a LOT about the “Fall of Man.” Not so much my people.
“You are exploring trauma and the brain and theology? YOU must be my people!” Maybe? But then you talk about Augustine and sacrificial theology and suffering and atonement, and I have my doubts.
What was going on here? Why all the fishing for “my people?” O, RIGHT! Because we are born to need one another. Our brains, even filled with all sorts of obscure knowledge about early church theologies or the rise of Kingdom of God language in the 1830’s, are still wired for connection, wired to find and make kin.
So, I’m feeling out of my element, and insecure, and anxious because my project is so different, and my talk is a story, not a lecture. No wonder my brain is running a constant analysis of each person who crosses my path – I feel vulnerable, and that makes me want allies – You know, in case a war breaks out between Christian History Academicians. As if.
So, I gently laugh at my antics, and pray I haven’t been too much of a pest, like the little sister who keeps wanting to hang out with the cool football players on her older brother’s team, and give thanks that “my people” are in the world – And I’m going home to them soon. And in the meantime, wow, there are a lot of cool ideas in this room, and a fantastic opportunity to practice the craft of writing. If I can just keep my mouth shut, maybe no one wonder what I’m doing here! #laughatself