Friday, September 18, 2009

Bleeding knees and hope...

After a week of personal anxiety and disappointment, of realizing that God's will be done really, really does mean, at times, and not my will, I've rediscovered some of my writing from my move to my current position some 2 years ago. While I really do love my job, remembering that I wasn't so sure about it in the beginning reminds me that we truly do see through the glass dimly, but that God sees us and loves us through eternity.

After applying a dual anesthetic of profanity and Neosporin to my bleeding knee, I sat on the stairs in my ever-emptying townhouse and cried. I cried because I’d ripped a few layers of skin off my knee when I missed the step at my back door while loading my car of yet more personal belongings for my pending move. I cried because I was moving, leaving my faith community and personal community where I’d served for almost five years for a new ministry in an unfamiliar town in an equally unfamiliar state. I cried because I had acute anxiety about closing on my first home in this foreign land where people ate crawfish and gumbo and cheered for the LSU tigers. I cried because somewhere in this hurricane of emotions, I knew God was in the center, still and solid as always.

Actually, that annoyed more than comforted me.

I was in the storm of anxiety, grief, and when I allowed it, some happiness over the something new that I was entering, but I wasn’t fully ready for that part yet. I clamored for my inner Jeremiah, the prophet who spent about two-thirds of his prophecy kvetching in a grand way, even accusing God of seducing then raping him with prophecy.

No one could ever accuse Jeremiah of burying his anger.

Right now, with my bleeding knees and aching soul, his words had a place in my mouth. In the world of full-time Christian ministry, we love, and I mean LOVE, to talk about where God is calling us. We talk about prayer and discernment as if it’s a decision between the lobster and the filet mignon on the dinner menu. Or, chocolate and more chocolate. We think God’s call is exactly what we want, as if responding to God’s call in our lives is akin to submitting the list of classes you’d like to take this semester and getting an orderly schedule back with your earliest class at 10:00 am and no classes on Fridays.

"Whom shall I send to help my people? Who will tell of my great love, with absolutely no inconvenience to your own life?"

Me! Me! I’ll go! Send me.

Except that we added the last qualifying line about "no inconvenience." God really just asks the first line.

Going forth mean moving, and moving, and going away from comfort and friends. Moving away from prior mindsets and stubborn theology that is narrower than God asks. Moving away from what we want to what God wants.

I’ve walked this road before. One of the benefits of keeping journals is the almost total inability to remember selectively life events or even edit them to fit my current needs. Years before, when I drove away from the womb of seminary, where I lived in the most amazing city on earth (New York) among the most amazing people I knew and down the street from a Whole Foods, I cried then. Convinced I would never again find a community as wholly joyful and amazing at this one and I would never again shop at a Whole Foods, I gave myself permission to sob uncontrollably to the Pennsylvania border. I cried until I drove into my new home in one of the least amazing towns on earth in lower Alabama (my opinion at the time) where I would begin my ordained life.

The tears this time were tears of fear, perhaps, more than grief. I’d become very comfortable in my parish and in my town. I knew where things were placed and the bodies were buried. I'd even buried a few of the bodies myself. I knew the street names and the parishioners. I knew what I loved about my ministry and what I disliked about my ministry. I also knew, in that still, center place, that I’d become complacent and limited, and that I needed to go forth into the unknown.

Comfort has never truly seemed to have an easy place in the journey of God. God is forever moving people, uprooting them from family land and family businesses to trot them all over the Ancient Near East for these grand schemes like building an entire people and saving the whole of creation. Given the magnitude of the tasks, I suppose a bit of relocation is necessary, whether from the land of Ur of the land of lower Alabama.

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