Crisis of confidence

Good day, good and faithful readers… those three dozen or so of you who stuck around like the handful of Israelites who didn’t go off fawning over the golden calf when Moses evaporated into the mists of Sinai for forty days and forty nights.  Those happy few among the nation of Israel got to watch Moses lose his mind and lob the Ten Commandments into the air and grind up the golden calf, sprinkle it in a big old barrel of water, and make the other Israelites drink it.[1]

Alas, Marian’s no Moses, and I have not spent the last (ahem) eight weeks receiving anything even remotely approaching the Ten Commandments from God’s own index finger.  What I have been doing is engaging in serious seminary education.  I mean, just last week I helped judge the annual Halloween costume contest at school.  First prize went to an Anglican bedecked in black spandex, clerical collar and cape, calling herself Super Priest, which isn’t entirely fair, because everybody knows that Anglicans have more style sense than all other Protestants combined.[2]  And the week before that, I had to self-evaluate my first-ever video-recorded sermon, which was the single most mortifying experience of my entire life.[3]  The only way I could make myself watch it a second time was by dubbing my inexplicable and elaborate hand gestures as follows:  Rock Tumbler, Crazy Mudra, Assault-Proof Bra, and Huge Tracts of Land.[4] (Use your imagination.)

Things weren’t much better this week.  Determined not to make the same demented hand gestures I did two weeks ago, I clung to the pulpit for dear life…and wound up flapping my elbows like a chicken desperate for lift-off.

It has been a two month long voyage of discovery, my friends, during which I’ve experienced a significant crisis of confidence.

Because the more I learn – about theology, Biblical history, pastoral care, and the intrusion of the subconscious on the sympathetic nervous system – the less qualified I feel to weigh in on matters of any import, let alone the matter of rescuing Christianity from banality, militancy, damnation doctrines, irrelevance, and just plain bad manners.

I recently brought this conundrum up with a friend, who gently and sagely said, “Moses was a f**k up, too.  So was Aaron.  And so was David.  Let’s see.  So were Jacob, Samson, Peter, and Paul.  Shall I go on?”

“HEY!  Did you just call me a f**k up?”

Her point was that God never has any prime material to work with.  If God is the potter and we are the clay, we’re not that awesome gooey clay that you get to launch off a wheel going 600 RPM through the nearest window.  We’re also not that bitchin’ cool polymer clay that comes in thousands of colors.  We’re certainly not the ultimate in clay craft – precious metal clay, which looks like gold and cooks up nice just like a Toll House cookie.

We’re not even Play Dough.  Because at least Play Dough is tasty.  (Not as tasty as a Toll House cookie, though.)  No, we’re that gritty poor man’s salt clay[5] that they make you use in Sunday school class.  My mother still owns a crappy clay star that I made when I was five, painted cobalt blue and liberally sprinkled with glitter.  She hangs it on her Christmas tree every year.  Why, I ask, why?

Same reason God molds us, second-rate medium that we are.  It’s got something to do with love.

And love, I continue to learn, is as frequently inelegant as it is enthusiastic.

So, here’s my goal.  Get back to writing one blog per week…well, let’s say 2-3 per month.  And to not be scared of speaking my mind, voicing my truth, and flapping my elbows.  Thank you, constant readers, for your loyalty.  I look forward to writing to you again SOON!

[1] I think this is the best demonstration of pure pique anywhere in the Bible. 

[2] Anglicans don’t consider themselves Protestants, so if my Super Priest friend is reading this…the devil made me say it.

[3] Seriously.  It trumps the day I tried to pick up a guy in a bar and my gum popped out of my mouth and landed right between us.  I don’t know what ultimately doomed the relationship – the gum popping out and landing on the bar or me picking it up and popping it back in my mouth.  (It seemed like bad manners to just leave it there.)

[4] I’m thinking of trotting the video out at my next dinner party and using it as a drinking game.  “Huge Tracts of Land…bottoms up, everyone!”

[5] As a public service to my remaining readers, here’s the recipe for salt clay:

  • 1 c salt
  • 1 c flour
  • Water (enough to make the clay workable – if you can’t figure out what constitutes “workable” clay, perhaps you should consider a different medium)

WARNING!  Do not fashion a golden calf out of this clay!  It will look like total crap.  For crafting idols, I advise using precious metal clay or the lost wax technique.

© Marian the Seminarian, 2012


4 responses to “Crisis of confidence

  • Brandon Ohrns


    I was thrilled to see you post again, and was glad at the final conclusion of the post. However, the title and a main point of your post was something I felt a need to comment upon. Hopefully I’ll make more sense this time; last time, a wonderful export from Scotland loosened my typing fingers. This time, any rambling is entirely of my sober mind.

    You stated that your studies have been a cause of your “crisis of confidence” and that, the more you learn, the “less qualified I feel to weigh in on matters of any import, let alone the matter of rescuing Christianity from banality, militancy, damnation doctrines, irrelevance, and just plain bad manners.” Well, I value your insight because it is a Christian perspective that lacks all the baggage and judgement that seems to come with Christianity in America. Your views are unlike any I have encountered before, and it is refreshing and joyous. You, more than anything else, have led me to conclude Christianity has a great deal of Wisdom and Goodness to offer the world, and that Christianity in America does not go hand-in-hand with prejudice, judgement and determining how others should act.

    The only way your studies would make you less qualified or less able to give a refreshing presentation of your Faith would be if you stopped being who you are. That is, if you gave into the militancy, or the damnation doctrines, or the bad manners that you seem to think you are less able to battle now.

    Your strength comes from who you are, not from what you know. I do not care about the nitty-gritty detailed meanings of archaic passages, or on what centuries worth of dead guys interpretations of the Bible have lead us to now conclude. I care what conclusions you have reached on some of the Big Questions, and I enjoy seeing how your Belief has helped you reach them.

    I have faith that you will succeed because your intelligence is matched by your goodness, and you have undertaken this pursuit for selfless reasons. And I’m glad I can be along for the ride!


    • Marian

      You rock, man – thank you! Thanks for sticking with me during my forty…wait, fifty…well, let’s see…fifty-two, to be exact, days in the wilderness. And thank you for your kind observations about the (albeit sometimes elusive) goodness and wisdom of Christianity. At present, I am seated at a table at Iliff School of Theology with a Lutheran, UU, and United Methodist, all of us supporting each other as we hurtle toward finals week and a month of vacation during which we all vow NOT to harass people about how they word their holiday greetings. The spirit of Christ is vibrant at this table and it gives me hope.

  • Mensa Ms

    Erica, You are truly a treasure–I think yours is the only blog I’ve read that NEVER disappoints (and that includes my beloved Anne Lamott’s). I find myself thinking I can’t imagine anything you could undertake that wouldn’t be a big success (especially true since I know you’ll never reprise middle school skit about Ellis Island).

    I’m proud to know you.  You’re in my prayers.

    Best,  Lynne Kinghorn


  • denverdsigner

    Thank you for making the blog commitment thingie. I don’t care if you flap your elbows, or wiggle your toes while writing. Did you wiggle your toes at the pulpit? Hm.
    I just look forward to reading the dispatches from your brain. 😉

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