Monday, August 04, 2008

Bait and Switch

Wikipedia defines "bait and switch" as

In retail sales, a bait and switch is a form of fraud in which the party putting forth the fraud lures in customers by advertising a product or service at an unprofitably low price, then reveals to potential customers that the advertised good is not available but that a substitute is. The goal of the bait-and-switch is to convince some buyers to purchase the substitute good as a means of avoiding disappointment over not getting the bait, or as a way to recover sunk costs expended to try to obtain the bait.
I arrived Down Range on Sunday pretty much sleep-deprived, so I told myself, "Self, I must be hallucinating. This will all seem a bad dream after I've had some sleep and can think clearly" when I was being told that my job was going to be doing paperwork that absolutely anyone else could be doing, instead of doing actual ministry with Soldiers who are in harm's way and have very little access to a Catholic priest -- which is why I signed up at age 50, with no prior service, in the first place.

Imagine, then, my reaction (remember: I'm a curmudgeon, after all) yesterday upon learning that, indeed, at least 80% of my time will be spent in an air-conditioned office doing scut-work that literally any idiot could be doing (after all, they have *me* doing it! Q.E.D.).

I'd been led to believe that there are not enough Catholic priests in the military to serve the needs of the Catholic military personnel and approved DoD civilians Down Range (true). I'd also been led to believe that my being a priest would mean that I'd be doing lots and lots of ministry with and for Soldiers and others Down Range who could not get access to Catholic sacraments (not true).

How do you spell "bait and switch"?

I'm scheduled to do only two Masses per week (one for some poobahs, mid-week, and one at a post chapel on the weekend). I'll also give a briefing each week to Soldiers getting ready to do something. I get to go to two administrative-type meetings each week. We have a morning update with the boss for a few minutes each morning. And I get to spend probably an hour (at most) each day doing the paperwork I mentioned. Sure, we put in twelve-hour days, but factor into that a trip to the gym, and a couple of trips to the dining facility, and maybe even a catnap. Clearly it's important to have a Catholic priest here doing this!

I'm told that I might occasionally be able to go "outside the wire" to do ministry, but that's not something that can be scheduled long-range.

Thank God that over the years I've had lots of friends who go to AA and Al-Anon (and other 12-Step meetings) who have taught me that by identifying the "powerlessness du jour" I can be reminded that "there is One who has all power. That One is God. May you find God now." I think those people are on to something! The first Step says, "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable." What my friends who go to Al-Anon meetings (in particular) have shared with me is that my life will be more or less unmanageable, depending upon how I deal with (or not!) the powerlessnesses I'm experiencing.

They've also taught me that my love cannot save the ones I love.

I especially hate that, to be honest.

So, I guess what's going on in this "bait and switch" is that I'm experiencing a massive amount of powerlessness, and an especially painful instance of my love not being able to even help -- let alone save -- the ones I love and am trying to serve.

Thus, I can either choose to add more unmanageability into this situation (which has more than enough, thank you very much) or not. It all depends upon my response to the powerlessness. Friends who go to 12-Step meetings say that by admitting that powerlessness, they're able to work eleven other steps on that situation, giving them a 'program for living.' They tell me it works concerning their powerlessness over alcohol, and they've found it works over any other powerlessness they identify, as well. Sounds like a plan to me.

So in the midst of feeling my spirit being stomped into the dust and gravel (there's a lot of that here, both underfoot and in the air), I've decided to surrender, recognizing that there is, indeed, One who has all power. I'm going to "get out of God's way" as my friend Gil G used to say (he died with about 30 years sober). I figure my Higher Power has all the essential skill sets necessary to bring life out of even the most death-dealing of situations, so this mess should be a no-brainer for God.

It's just going to take a lot of "acting as if" on my part, especially as I hear of bad stuff happening (as I did yesterday) -- and don't kid yourselves: there's still very bad stuff happening over here, though perhaps not as much as when it's been at its worst....

It's Tuesday morning here, and I'm off to "work".

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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Anonymous said...

That is very wise of you. I'm coming to such a conclusion has taken some deep breathes. I believe God has a greater purpose for you other there than paperwork. Maybe it is like the story about Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding. It is not time yet.

Anonymous said...

The Army often finds a way to take talented, motivated people and stick them in tedious jobs that they are way over-qualified to do. But you can usually wriggle your way out or at least shift your realm a little bit towards stuff that is more your style, with some effort and making connections. Talking to higher sometimes helps...sometimes.

sylvia christakos said...

Hi father tim, sounds not so good. It is too bad that the military has not found a way to use your talents. I'm sure there are many soldiers who need someone to talk to and who need spiritual guidance.
thinking of you sylvia and family

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