Speaking the Language

Post Author: Heather Godsey

3225393556_ac00870158_zAs someone who does ministry amid the Harry Potter generation, I had originally started reading about fan culture a few years ago as a way to feel productive while distracting myself from the pain of my divorce. Somewhere along the way, I became convinced that people who create community around loving a particular narrative property were engaging in an inherently spiritual enterprise. I know the characters and story arcs of far too many of these properties, even without fully viewing or reading a good many of them. I speak the language, know all the abbreviations, and even the best fics. I can identify D.C and Marvel heroes, several varieties of anime, as well as the Hogwart’s House to which the last four actors to star in Dr. Who belong. Don’t even try to play mis-name Benedict Cumberbatch with me because I can go all day.

Clearly, this particular fascination is what makes me worthy to be sitting here. Eating BBQ.  Nodding politely as my date slides into minute 17 of a lecture on the superiority of World of Warcraft. It’s my fault, really. He mentioned that he’d been a professional gamer for awhile and I absolutely needed to know how that worked. How was I to know that this involved intricately detailing every version of the game for the past 10 years?

Apparently, I know just enough about superhero movies, comic books, and video games to be dangerous…if by dangerous you mean sitting in a BBQ joint across from a man who is so excited that I can speak his language, he “doesn’t even care that you’re a pastor.”


And that’s the rub, isn’t it? Being single is hard enough sometimes. Dating – online or in person – can be frustrating. But dating as a pastor makes us a tad special snowflake-y. We expend a great deal of energy worrying about finding someone who will not only get us, but also understand the Call. Someone who, if they can’t speak the language, is at least willing to learn enough to get by.

“S/he doesn’t care that I’m a pastor! Cue the trumpets!”

Except that we’re actually not looking for someone for whom our profession doesn’t matter, but rather for someone for whom it matters positively. Someone who likes that we’re a minister. Someone who sees the value in loving a person with a deep sense of purpose, even when that purpose appears insane to the outside world.

In my mid-twenties I thought I’d achieved that, marrying my ex-husband because he seemed to speak flawless Heather-ese. He knew all the right words for all of my worlds and I believed a shared vocabulary was enough. But like any language student can tell you, speaking the words only gets you so far. To really become fluent, you need to immerse yourself in the culture by learning the history and celebrating the holidays. You need to read the famous novels and sing the folk songs. Above all, you need to be willing to be vulnerable, to love the people enough that the hard work becomes both compelling and rewarding. If you can’t, or won’t, all the pocket dictionaries in the world won’t help. You’ll soon find yourself back home, a touch sad to have left perhaps, but ultimately relieved to be making space for something else.

In the end, I politely declined to see WoW boy again. He is, as far as I know, a good person with honorable intentions. He just wasn’t interested in learning my language on any substantive level; though he did make vague attempts to speak religion-ese, comparing video game dragons to real world evil.

I could have gone out with him a few more times, attempted to become more fluent and therefore more involved, but I’ve done that once and know it doesn’t end well. Besides, I’m getting pretty good at this being single thing; emphasizing the positive aspects while acknowledging the drawbacks. Jesus isn’t my boyfriend, but his call affirms me in my search for someone who wants to be a part of my world enough to turn off Google translate.

Heather Godsey is ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and can be found wearing her United Methodist mask at the Wesley Foundation at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She chauffeurs His Royal Highness Henry the Lhasa Apso to his many public appearances and encourages stressed out college students to color while venting. It’s a pretty good life.

Image by: Guillermo Viciano
Used with permission
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