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ORDINATION, FEAST OF ST NICHOLAS, 1980
December 6, 2006
 
I was full of myself. It's a wonder anyone hired me. With the immense self-confidence only ignorance can bestow, I thought I was well prepared for the work ahead. I had done well in school. What more was there to learn? I am ashamed to admit that I thought I was more or less on a par with my new colleagues, priests who had many years of experience, and even more ashamed to admit that I thought I was superior to many of them.

My mother had recently died -- I had thrown myself into my work as a convenient way of not thinking about this terrible truth, and was too inexperienced to know that this wouldn't work. My brokenhearted father came to the service, a tiring car trip for an old man. Old to me, that is; he was younger than my husband is now. Some people from my childhood church came. Some people from the church whose rector wouldn't sponsor me for ordination because I was a woman came -- he didn't show, of course -- and wonderful people from the church that did sponsor me.

It felt as if it were all about me that day. More like a coronation than an ordination -- after the service, everyone clapped when I entered the room where the luncheon was to be served. One day of that kind of thing is just about all anybody should ever have. It's a good thing God didn't make me a real queen; I would have been a despot.

That evening, reality set in. Tomorrow would be my first celebration of the Eucharist. Suddenly, I didn't know what to do with my hands. My patient brother walked me through the motions. I'm going to make a mistake, I said. I know it.

That's okay,
he said, it counts anyway. Everybody makes mistakes.

Everybody? Was I still part of everybody?

Damn right. The next 26 years would demonstrate that over and over again. It has been mostly a round of mistakes on my part and miracles on God's, moment after moment when the divine hand has reached into my messes and transformed them into something that could actually do the world some good. Most of the colleagues to whom I felt so superior have revealed themselves to me as the faithful servants of God that they were then and are now, people doing their level best to serve well and doing it pretty damn well. I love their company, more than any other except my family: other people who know what this strange business of ministry is all about.

I was so young! One of the things about the young is that they don't always really know they're young -- they think they're finished. They want so much to be respected.

But we're never finished, thank God. If you're still breathing, you're still learning. Thank God and thank God, again and again.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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