Priest or Prophet?
My three kids attend the same elementary school that I did.
Either it’s a wild coincidence or a blatant indicator of my reluctance to leave my hometown, maybe some of both. The memories flood back most often when I drop my kids off at school in front of the same classroom I walked into as a nervous fifth grader 24 years ago.
- That one game of wall ball at recess snaps back into focus - the one where I attempted to catch the tennis ball by jumping up with my back against the chain link fence. My gangly ‘Go-Go Gadget arms’ (as my friends called them) reached up and over the fence, only to have my right tricep catch on the top of the fence. I received a brag-worthy scar and flesh was visible on the fence for over a month.
- I felt my stride slow and my head bob with palpable cockiness as I returned from Christmas break wearing a brand new pair of tear-away pants.
- I feel hope and anxiety volley back and forth in my gut as I yearn to be included by my classmates. Aaron Hodges’ words to “go find a new group of friends” cut yet again.
Even in writing these I feel my desire to linger - to bring up more basketball battles on the playground, to smile at my khaki Union Bay corduroys that Chalon Kintzley noticed after our choir concert - to soak in the hot springs of remembering. And there’s goodness in this priestly act of looking to the past. Priests are the holders of story, the ones who can look back at where we’ve come from and identify the presence of God.
I can speak the language of the priest effortlessly. Come, pull up a chair, and let’s do as the Ignatians do and rummage the junk drawer of your life for the presence of God.
But in looking through the rear view of my life I can miss the three wonderful humans actually sitting in my backseat. Yes, remember and reflect, and consider what’s ahead. Don’t just relish in what story has held, consider the story I want to write for my three kids.
If the priest is oriented to the past, the prophet holds hope and vision for the future. They are willing to speak needed words of truth and correction because of their sense of where we’re headed. If the priest is the cardigan wearing pipe smoking grandfather, the prophet is the greasy haired eccentric uncle who is unflinchingly honest. And God asks us to be both.
In addition to the rich memories of the past, I now hold hope for the following in the future:
- For eyes to see and celebrate the quirky goodness of my kids - even if it shows up as cockiness
- To not simply insulate and protect my children from their pain, but to be present alongside them and attempt to process it
What stories do you need to hold and remember as a priest? What vision for the future do you need to pursue as the prophet?
Jesse French | Executive Director