06 April 2008

Fishbowls and Sheep

I live inside a fishbowl.

For a very long time, I knew that I was signing up for this. I knew years ago – when a teacher got fired because a student accused him of sexual harassment – that my life would never really be my own. No matter which way I chose to take my profession, I knew it would be one where eyes were on me all the time. I knew.

And yet I chose it. I picked up the glass bowl, filled it with water, plopped it down in a museum, and hopped in for anyone who wanted to see. And they do see! They notice everything – the color of the tulips outside my house, the cars that frequent my driveway, a new haircut, new shoes, when I take a walk. My life is not my own.

I love my life here, I really do. Please don’t hear me say that I’m miserable. I chose the fishbowl, remember? And some days I want to poke my head up from the water and scream, “Look how amazing my life is and how wonderfully happy it makes me!!!!” Because when I am truly alive – when I am growing and changing and becoming a better woman – the people who are the recipients of my love are getting a better version of me.

But I don't.
I don't because I am afraid.

The fishbowl is fragile. It can be spilled. It can be knocked off the table and shattered. It can be poisoned. And if any one of those things happens, it’s all over for me.
The fishbowl will be no more.
The fishbowl that I chose.
The fishbowl that I believe chose me, more accurately.

So what do I do?
How do I live with the tension?
How much do I share with the eyes and how much do I keep to myself?
And where is God in the fishbowl?

On days like today, I want to paint the inside of the bowl black. I want to hide from the world and live where no one can see me. As an introvert, I get tired. I get so very, very tired. The eyes don’t allow a personal life. The eyes see every secret.

The gospel text today asks simply, “Do you love me more than these?”
If I’m honest, I say, “Yes, God, I am trying to love you that much.”

And the text asks further, “Then follow me.”
I reply, “I did! And you called me into this bowl! You left me here to sleep away my life, and when I finally started to awaken, you reminded me that everyone was watching, so I better do it carefully!”

That just doesn’t seem fair, Jesus.

Like Simon, I’m hurt that Jesus has to ask me three times if I’ll love him. I’m hurt at my own response of “sure, but first can we talk about …” It should be easy. It should be as simple as throwing some food to some sheep. Yet I feel like I can't do it - not from the fishbowl, anyway.

And then Shirley said tonight, “My father used to raise sheep and when he gave it up, he said he did it because sheep just took too much work.”

Jesus didn’t ask me to feed a cat, one who can manage their own food for days, needing nothing from me.
He asked me to feed his sheep.

Sheep are a lot of work.
Too much work for Shirley’s dad.
Are they too much work for me?
Honestly, I don’t know.
I don’t know.

I’m doing the best I can to balance my life.
I’m trying to be a good minister, a good friend, a good daughter, a good disciple, a good sister, a good neighbor, a good citizen ….

I’m trying to live my life in such a way that I’m happy to live where anyone who wants to can see my colors and the way I swim.
I’m trying to keep the water as pure as I can.

But I have no control over what happens to the fishbowl.
I hope these are sheep and not wolves.


heather said...

Wow Erin. Just wow. I don't even know what to say. Even though I know you wrote what you wrote for yourself as much as for anyone else, thank you for sharing your thoughts in such a beautiful way. I loved reading it.

I know I don't really know you, and who am I to say anything about you and your life, but I do want to say one thing...

Jesus is proud of you.
He's proud of "your colors and the way you swim" because even if they're not at every moment perfect, even I can tell, you are doing your best to imitate His colors and His swimming techniques. :)
Have faith in yourself and the strength and wisdom and perspective that you have in Him. Let Him have control of the bowl! He knows who needs to see what and when...

Rachel Sherron said...

Well, if I have to live in a fish bowl too, can I atleast live in a pink one?

Just trying to make you smile. Erin, it's going to be ok. We're never in this alone.

Ferris Family said...

I'm proud of you, the job you do, the work ethic you have, and the love and compassion you show on a daily basis!

Tim said...