I am a mild-tempered man. Yes, I may rant and rave on this thing, but in the end, better that I tap keys than deliver a dry-slap to a passing pensioner, no? Apart from in front of Saturday night reality TV when I am rage-incarnate, I am just a ball of fluffy loveliness.
Until just now ....
My little girl, my darling daughter, all three-years-old of her returned home from church in a ponderous mood. She is only like this if she is once again contemplating issues of mortality and the theology of death (I often wonder if Paul Sheppy isn't her real dad, at times), or if someone has been mean to her. Without exception, such a person is another child, one of her peers, and we attend to matters accordingly.
Until just now ...
She is fairly shy or perhaps measured. She is well-socialised as any clergy kids are, but she is cautious about who she speaks to - no bad thing in the large public gatherings that my work and life expose her and her sister to. It is a frequent thing that complete (or relative) strangers speak to them like old friends, or (as happened this very week) grab and squeeze their cheeks. For them to have a healthy reticence in the face of all this attention (wonderful and kind as it is) is a useful skill.
Well, this very day, within the context of the Eucharist at which we had all gathered to celebrate, someone accused my perfect little angel of being rude, because she didn't speak to that person (someone she hadn't seen in nearly a year). Were it another child, Rebekah would have stood her ground, but when it is another adult, all she could do was package it up, internalise it, believe what was said and take it home quietly.
I have discovered a new emotion. Fortunately, I only learned about this after collar-off time, so was safely locked into the house. Why? Because this emotion is a dark one, one that propelled me towards a fury the like of which I have not felt for some time. I wanted to fight for my little girl. I wanted to do the index-finger-jabbing-chest thing, ask what the devil they thought they were doing. It is in the heart of most parents to protect their youngsters, or to seek retribution when they seem to have been wronged. I now know this first hand, and was, I confess, alarmed by my own fury. They are my kids and I am their dad, but here we have the old balancing act thing again, because I am clergy, and clergy do not habitually throttle people. I am now at a loss to know what to do in this thorny world that my children will have to journey through. I know that my collar will hold me back, and whether that is right or not I don't know. I jealously protect my own, but for the first time, I feel that there is a barrier to that in some small part.
I don't know how to end this post. At the moment I want to take my little girl's pain away and do death in equal measure. I am a nice man, and also a priest, and at the moment, I am not sure how this stuff works.