Archives for posts with tag: help

Lord, I have reached the end of myself and hover over the abyss.
Your face, O God, do I seek.
Only you command the sea to calm, the water to still. Only you can command fruit to grow out of season. Only you can bring the enemy near.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
The world is a craggy rock, the enemy pursues at every turn, crushing hope and rooting up hiding places. We despair.
But you, O God, are with us. You are as near as our very breath.

Come quickly, Lord! Come near to us!
Show us your mercy and your love. Be our redeemer, our savior, our friend.
Make the waves calm, and life abundant. Let us rest with you, Lord. Let us draw close to your warming fire. May your peace and goodness enclose us.

Lord, be not far from our cry.
Listen not like the idols, whose ears of stone only echo our woes.
You are a God of love and light and laughter.
Be our God and we will be your people!

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy upon us.

DSC00771Minivans and suburbans troll for parking. Pedestrians walk in clumps with fistfuls of flowers. It’s graduation day. This year I, too, got to enjoy the flurry of excitement. Family and friends (who may as well be family for all they’ve put up with from me) came to my seminary graduation. After four years of immersion in theological and ministerial training, the end called “commencement” arrived. I had been eagerly anticipating this day for years–even before enrolling in seminary. Yet with the end that is a beginning, comes its share of confusion, uncertainty and loss.

A year ago I had a plan. Four years ago I had an entirely different plan. Next year, God knows. And that’s been my answer to the well-intentioned yet horrible question, “what’s next?” God knows when I’ll be in a position of ministry in a church. God knows when I’ll apply to grad school for doctoral work. God knows what’s next, not just for me but for my family as well. When we cannot plan out our next month, it’s rather silly to presume to know anything. Which is why, as cheesy and simple-minded as it sounds, the only option is to trust God, most especially in and through transitions.

My first quarter at seminary were my last months working at a large financial institution that failed. While I hadn’t worked there for long, less than five years, I felt the upheaval change brought onto my coworkers. Anyone who had participated in the employee share purchasing program watched their earnings shrink to nothing as anxiety and fear for their job position multiplied. Some jumped ship early. The rest of us took advantage of the “transition services” offered. Transitions are strange things. I’ve known people who flourish in transitions, while others careen through with eyes half shut. And at the end of the day, there is no getting around them. Occasionally we can manage them, but more often they pounce upon our comfortable routines, disrupting our sense of self and stability.

Transitions are crucial movements in life and in writing. A good writer can carry the reader through the most disjointed transitions by maintaining connectivity between before and after, showing change and trajectory. Similarly, difficult transitions in life seem to utterly sever any relation between past and present-future. So, how do we make it through? How do we keep any sense of integrity when our world flips inside out? Remembering.

One of my favorite passages in the book of Joshua comes when the Israelites are preparing to cross the Jordan, chapter four.

Then Joshua summoned the twelve men from the Israelites, whom he had appointed, one from each tribe. Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, one for each of the tribes of the Israelites, so that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial forever.”

Stones of remembrance set up to provoke questions from the next generations. Stories repeated and passed along from elder to younger. This is how we weather transitions: we remember that someone has been here before. We do not change jobs, or leave grad school, or move from point a to point b on our own. There is a story of someone having gone before us. The terrain is likely different, and the environment more chill or more menacing–but someone has gone before us. God has gone before us, and continues to go with us, a fact both irritatingly simple and absurdly profound. Trust God.

I hate waiting.

Patience is a virtue, but we’re seldom told of the agony of waiting required to attain such a virtue. Most everything I read in pop Christianity says (or at least implies) that we need to be actively pursuing what God has for us in difficult times. There’s always something to learn, always some revelation–so they say. What if what we ‘learn’ is that waiting sucks, but by God’s grace seasons change, winter turns to spring, and praise falls on our lips again? What if Qoheleth was right?542011_51968374

Growing up with a teacher for a mother, everything had to be educational, for our benefit and conscious development. She seldom answered my questions and, instead, prompted me to figure it out. Figuring things out requires tenacity and access to enough information so as to bring the puzzle pieces together. Sometimes you just want to know, especially when there are only a few of the pieces in sight. It also felt as though I was always behind, always missing something, always two steps behind.

If life is merely a series of lessons, and the Christian life a series of Sunday schools, that just isn’t good enough for me. I cannot believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection were units of some cosmic primary school curriculum. The trials he endured on the earth were not ‘instructive’ to the disciples until Jesus showed his resurrected self to them. Millennia later, we don’t have the benefit of seeing him in his resurrected body (yet). We’re left with teachings, instead, which so many have reduced to a series of moral guidelines. But Jesus’ instruction was to follow, not sit down and reflect upon an essay question or do some mathematical problem solving.

In a time of waiting, all I can do is ask Jesus to be here with me, to sit with me, pray with and for me, to listen to the desires of my heart. Then, at the time when God in Christ says, Now, may he grant me the strength and love and joy and simply the energy to move and change and grow. Like a seed pushing aside soil to reach light.

As I write this, “After the Storm,” by Mumford & Sons plays in the background, reminding me of the wonder of spring time, of how alive the world feels after tumult, wind and rain. Is that how the earth felt when it was new?