November 14, 2008
Your colleague introduces us. He’s a professor who doesn’t mean to be intimidating. You’re a professor who maybe does. To make up for that big, squashy heart? He’s walking me to the door after a meeting and he hears you furiously typing away in your office. “You two must meet.”
I instantly want you to like me – I have a big, unmanageable heart, too, that is always immediately obvious. So – is this what you want to hear? – I say I’m interested in seminary after graduating next year, though I’ve just discovered the field of theology and am pursuing a Bachelor’s in it so I, being new to the Christian faith, can get all my questions about God answered. You earned a Master’s in Divinity from Yale. You got personal, spiritual guidance from Henri Nouwen, whose books are required reading for nearly every student of theology.
I’m not sure I believe in God yet (I’m new; I’m here on the hope that this stuff about healing and seeing dead loved ones again and the making of all things new is true) but if God is anything like me, God probably desperately wants to be believed in. I try to hide from myself and definitely you that most of my energy goes toward securing love or, if I can’t have that, pity.
March 12, 2010
I have you as a professor. The class is early Christian history, from year 1 AD to circa 500 AD. We mainly discuss the first martyrs of the faith; somehow, you aptly compare us ten students to a T-group. When I refer to that class a few years later – ‘I wish I’d brought crumpets to the last meeting” – you have to explain that the T stands for therapy. ‘That you think of us as a group of little old English ladies knitting socks and sipping Darjeeling when we were talking about beheadings and upside-down crucifixion is phenomenal theology, though.”
I have a medical condition that, it’s becoming clear, my professors need to know about. I awkwardly tell you. “Sometimes, I forget where I am. If I’m not in class, I’m not ditching and someone needs to know.” I give you my phone number, my pastor’s number and my then-boyfriend-now-husband’s number. You, without flinching, give me a nickname: dearest. You don’t ask if I’m seeing a therapist. I thank God as I’m leaving your office, cross the lawn under the oak tree.
Wait. You were not fazed by my intermittent amnesia triggered by loud noises, the idea of fire and God knows what else. You stayed steady in the face of the bizarre – does this make you safe or detached?