January 11, 2006

I Have Not Arrived

1501 page6 cap few months ago our staff was talking about the way different writers are perceived by our reading audience. We were talking about balance--how to achieve magazine content balance in regard to many facets, including gender, race, nationality, and occupation. These and other considerations are taken seriously at the Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines; hence the discussion was quite lengthy.

Near the conclusion of the meeting I asked what our own staff, as authors, would be considered. I was stunned when another editor said, ?You?re an administrator.? Like my friend Cesar Gonzalez,1 I was shocked to think that readers would believe that I was an administrator, a mouthpiece of church governance--and not just an average ?pew-view? member, dealing with the regular member frustrations and issues, who happens to work at the General Conference.

?But . . . I?m not one of them,? I stammered as I looked around at the sympathetic nodding heads of the staff as the bubble burst on my naïveté. ?I may report on them and what they?re doing, but I?m a journalist . . .? I weakly trailed off.

?It doesn?t matter how you see yourself,? I was told in unvarnished truth. ?Because of where you work people will categorize you as one of the administrators.?

1501 page6I was churning with consternation and offended idealism. To mollify my injured sensibilities, I concluded that ?maybe someday that will be me, but I have not arrived there yet.? Shaking their heads, my coworkers acknowledged my existence in denial, and the meeting was adjourned.

Some of you reading this may think, What is the big deal anyway? ?Administrator? is not a dirty word. Being part of the group that is in charge is a plus. What?s the problem?

To some, however, being labeled as one of the higher-ups, would, at the very least, cause concern, if not horror and swift denial. Being an administrator means being a political policy-pusher, always towing the party line and not open to change.2 The ?us against them? attitude singling out those in administrative positions within the church seems prevalent among quite a few members; and suspicion of motives and a lack of truth-telling infiltrate both groups. And while it plays a part, age is not always a necessary factor.3

I?ve been thinking about that conversation ever since our meeting. I cannot deny that I will be viewed a certain way because of where I work and what I do, but I am still ?normal?--and by my actions and words I can help bridge gaps and mend fences. I am no longer the fresh-out-of-college intern, nor do I have the experience and wisdom of my colleagues. I am shedding the vestiges of youth and ignorance and donning the robes of the more learned and wiser. As I come to understand who and what I am, I wonder: Do I really need to worry about arriving?

Perhaps thinking that one has to arrive is part of the problem. There should not be this classism that seems to sprout the minute somebody ends up in charge. The tension between the administrator and layperson can spawn results as negative as racism and sexism. There will always be servants and leaders, but perhaps we?ve all gone too far in defining them. These terms should be interchangeable; in fact, if we are to have any success as Christ?s followers, they must be interchangeable.

Perhaps it isn?t so bad riding the wave between dreamer and visionary (Joel 2:28). Perhaps I should be proud to be considered an administrator, while at the same time make it clear that I?m just a regular gal, too. I can serve a dual purpose. And I can help change perceptions.

And perhaps if I remember that no one has truly arrived, I can serve the Lord better. We are all in this together and the destination is heaven, right?

1 See ?Something Has to Change,? April 21, 2005, Adventist Review.
2 Even though prejudicial opinions such as this are utterly inaccurate, nonetheless the perception of this as truth is out there.
3 As teens grow and mature, they assert their independence in mounting increments. In addition, almost every young person deals with some degree of angst and alienation as they come into adulthood; these feelings can be exacerbated when dealing with those in authoritative roles. However, as stated in my editorial, this is not the main factor--or even a necessary component--in the negative feelings that people have against figures of authority. These ?reasons? are not fully addressed in this editorial--for now it is enough to know that they exist.