“Jesus Wept”

I've been here before. Yesterday, I made my confession on Facebook in a post shared only with my Friends:
No matter what I do, about this time every year I get hit with such angst about my work, my writing, my scholarship, my career, I want to quit. In previous years, I have associated it with getting disparaging peer reviews of my work--I have had many, it is not just my blogging about Milo that has been polarizing! I had thought this time round to have cheated the Devil, but it appears not. Not sure whether this is a warning, an apology, or a plea for help. Just sayin’. I'm here again...where I had hoped not to be.
My friends, as always, have rallied round, but I cannot will away the gloom. I am stuck here, trying to argue my way out of despair.

“I'm just grieving for my father, whose death day (March 10) comes around every year at this time.”

“I'm tired from working so hard on my book, then my blog, and now having to go back to teaching. I never took a proper break.”

“I'm worried about getting the copy-editing on my book manuscript to proofread in a few weeks and how I am going to get it done in the midst of my teaching.”

“It's always depressing the first two weeks of the quarter when students are figuring out their schedules and not sure whether they can take my classes.”

I'm lying, of course. I don't feel able to tell you the real reasons I feel so depressed. Not that the above reasons aren't real, but they are the ones I can say publicly without being embarrassed or breaking confidences about things people have said about my work or revealing the jealousies I am struggling with in comparing myself with my peers.

Or maybe, as several of my friends suggested, I am fighting the Devil, who is tempting me.

The Gospel lesson on Sunday was, once again, curiously apt. Jesus's friend Lazarus fell sick and died, and Jesus did not come to see his sisters Martha and Mary for two whole days after he heard Lazarus was ill.

“Where were you?” the sisters chided him when he arrived. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

And Jesus wept when he saw Mary weeping.

Others around Martha and Mary claimed the same thing. “See how he loved him!” some of them said. But others replied: “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

I am angry with God. I am angry that I spent all winter defending my friend and that none of my colleagues on campus seems to have read anything that I have written about him, except to confirm the lies that they had been hearing about him all year.

As always, this is not quite true. I have had excellent conversations with two of my Chicago colleagues, one from the business school, one in the Divinity School, both of whom clearly understood why I took the fight that I did.

But for the most part--and this is a curious thing about the University of Chicago--nobody cares. Yes, the Divinity School faculty signed that open letter denouncing my opinions (or what they imagine are my opinions) for not being diverse enough. And there were those seven responses.

You'd think from what my colleagues told me last quarter about how upset the students in our department were that there would be mobs of students outside my office door, shaking petitions and demanding apologies.

Not so much. I am, it would seem, already dead to them. A non-person. Someone whose opinions are so odious they aren't even worth debating.

It could be, as I suggested to some of my friends, that I simply won. Or that I am too skilled a debater/fencer for my own good, so they've all run away. Or realize they can't win.

Back towards the end of last quarter, when I had to be on campus for a number of departmental functions after the whole Milo Event, I asked Milo what I should do. He told me: “Remember to laugh.”

Which I did, having several encouraging discussions with students who had written against me or who wanted to challenge me, as well as with colleagues who seemed mainly to want the whole issue to go away.

Or it could be that I am a woman. Meaning either a) the boys don't take me seriously as a combatant. Or b) they don't like fighting women. (Other women are another matter, I need to write more about that.)

After everything I've been through these past few months, I want to weep. Was everything I wrote for nothing?

I have a theory about why Jesus wept. It wasn't because he was feeling sorry for Mary. Sure, John says he was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” But notice what Jesus asked Martha when she chided him for not being there to save their brother and yet insisted that she believed he would nevertheless rise again.

Jesus said to her: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Martha answered him: “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.”

But when Jesus ordered the stone to be rolled away from the tomb, it seems she had her doubts. “Lord,” she admonished him, “by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”

Talk about frustrating! Jesus tried one more time: “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”

If I were Jesus, I would have wept again.

I am sick to death of writing things that only a handful of people read. (Look! I am in the Top 3% of Academia.edu authors--with mere hundreds of readers. This is academia.)  I am sick to death of colleagues getting effusive praise (see, I'm jealous) for writing things that reproduce what everybody else already believes. I am sick to death of having so much knowledge that I cannot figure out how to share. I am sick to death of people refusing to listen to me.

It's about fame, of course. I'm a writer, I want an audience.

But I also want people to believe me.

Just like God.

Image: Raising of Lazarus, The “Melisende Psalter,” London, British Library, Egerton MS 1139, fol. 5r.

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