As I reported elsewhere, my son got baptized on Saturday. A very strange thing (for me) happened during the confirmation, when my husband called upon his fellow Melchizedek priesthood holders to join him in laying hands on our son: I experienced my first real taste of priesthood envy.
There have been times in the past, such as when my children have been very ill, that I’ve thought, “Gee, it would be convenient to have the priesthood right about now,” but then I’d remember that a prayer of faith is pretty darn handy, too, and so I would not dwell too much on it. Not holding the priesthood has never been a huge deal for me.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those women who shudder at the thought of having so much responsibility placed on their delicate shoulders. Whenever I hear a woman say, “Oh mercy, I would never want to have the priesthood, I wouldn’t want all that responsibility,” I have the oddest urge to squeal, “But I don’t know nuthin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies!” Because most people don’t know how to respond to an ironic Butterfly McQueen impression, usually I just roll my eyes instead.
I’ve also never been all that fond of the expression that says God doesn’t give us more than we could handle–because what would happen if God did give me more than I could handle? Would I spontaneously combust? With God all things are possible, and I figure if God gave me priesthood responsibilities, I would somehow manage the mix. Mostly what I fear is having to serve in the scouting program or help people move. I hate moving. But that’s another blog, another time. My point is that historically I’ve neither envied nor aspired to the priesthood; I have had bigger theological fish to fry.
Nevertheless, there I was on Saturday, watching my husband and our closest male friends confirming my son a member of the church, and feeling strangely…displaced. I’d felt somewhat dissociated from the whole event, despite the fact that I had been lovingly recruited to lead the opening hymn (despite the fact that I’m a lousy chorister). It was different when my daughter was baptized, and I’m not sure why; if anything I am in a better place now, religiously speaking, than I was then–at least I think so. Thought so. Think so.
I suppose I felt more involved in my daughter’s baptism, simply because I was standing there at the edge of the font with a towel, waiting to lead her into the ladies’ room to dry off and help her get changed and brush her hair. My son, not being a girl, didn’t need me to do any of these things for him. It seemed that I was not needed at all. An unusual feeling for a mother.
So there I was, feeling unneeded and somewhat lost as my husband and those dear brethren ushered my son through this rite of passage, and I confess I was surprised to realize that I was disturbed, maybe even hurt. And then I was confused. Because while I’ve neither envied nor aspired to the priesthood, I’ve also never thought that I was emotionally invested in a male-only priesthood. But as I sat there nursing my priesthood envy, I was reminded that something about men serving together as men, exercising this divine privilege, has always given me the warm fuzzies. Call me sentimental. It’s important for guys to do stuff together; it’s most important for men to do godly things together–specifically, things that men must do. As left out as I felt at the moment, I realized I had no desire to be in that circle, particularly. I desired something, but it was something else. Something that a woman must do.
That I have no idea what that something could be is the source of my religious angst this week. Perhaps this just wasn’t my moment. My son’s baptism isn’t supposed to be about me, after all. But I felt like it was happening without me. I don’t know that it matters. It’s not like I’ve lost my sense of identity or my significance in my son’s life. It’s just not the way I expected to feel.