Love at a Distance

I teach students with a variety of emotional disturbances, psychiatric diagnosis, and traumatic histories.  Most days I love my job.  All false modesty aside, I am pretty good at it.

A part of my journey, as a special educator, has been to navigate the distance I ought to keep between myself and my kids.  This is partially about the specific student.  It is also about where I am at a given point in my life.  And it is also about deeper-running, more consistent aspects of my own personality.

I try and be nice.  I can usually mantain respectfullness.  But I tend toward not being particularly close and intimate with the kids.  I have been at my best when I have been partenered with aides or co-teachers that tend toward a little more close, a little more affectionate, a little more nurturing with the kids.

These professionals have been a good balance for me.  I hope that my colleauges would say the same thing: that we balance each other well.  It is much more complex than good cop/bad cop.  But in a radically over simplified way, sometimes, I am the bad cop.  Or at least, the neutral one.

And I think this is really good for the kids.  I thnk that they feel safe and comforted by the idea that I am who I am with the kids.  They may not know their times tables.  They might not care who Magellen was.  They may not possess many anger management skills.  But most of my kids?  They have pretty highly tuned bullshit detectors.  The know when somebody is just imitating somebody else.

I am reading this amazing book.  It is called The Solace of Fierce Landscapes.  There is this section where the author writes about how we want a sort-of distance from God.  Their is grace in his failure to be too close.


I am repulsed and attracted by this.  I guess maybe because it is deeply true and also very much untrue.  We want a God who cries our tears with us.  I believe in a God who does.

And yet…  One of the things I know is that when I am distant from my kids, they draw some comfort from this.  When they are in the middle of overwhelming emotions, they need somebody who is not wrapped in the highs and lows.  The number of kids who end up in residential care because the overly sympathetic parents ride their roller coasters is huge.

And here is the thing: I am not so different from my students.  I can be an ignorant knucklehead.  I want a God who cries with me.  But I also want a God who speaks to Elijah in the silence, who justifies himself to Job by not justifying himself.

I guess the amazing thing about omniscience is that God’s complexities can transcend my little categories.




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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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