Monday, August 29, 2016

Get Lost

Years (and years and years) ago I attend a class about how to share your faith. Rather than suggesting that we start with a Gospel presentation, the teacher said that we should begin by asking questions. Supposedly, as we probed the other persons' belief system, they themselves would begin to recognize that they were lost. The point was that we needed to help people recognize that they were "lost" before we could tell them how to be "found."

In a sense, going to seminary has been doing a similar thing to me. It has been helping me get "lost."

Since I was practically born on the second pew of a church, I've spent most of my life feeling "found." I knew what Christians believed. I knew what one must do to be saved. I knew how salvation had been wrought. I knew what the Bible said. I knew (basically) what the Bible meant. I was as found as found could be.

Or so I thought.

But class by class, things began to unravel. Questions--BIG questions--started looming large. Doubts moved in and set up house.

I'm not alone. Thankfully, I have an amazing group of colleagues by my side, a cohort of ministers who are muddling through right along side of me. They challenge me, inspire me, undo me, nourish me, and comfort me. We have gone to the brink together.

During one class, while peering out over a steep precipice of unknowns, one of my classmates became ashen. Noticing his fallen countenence, our professor asked, "What's wrong? What are you thinking?"

To which my classmate replied, "I'm just wondering how in the world I'm going to preach this stuff to my church!"

Our professor exploded, "DON'T PREACH THIS STUFF!!! This is just the stuff with which YOU must wrestle if you are ever to preach well."

My professor wasn't advocating hiding essential doctrines or watering down the Gospel. He wasn't insinuating that your average everyday Christian doesn't have a genuine faith. He was simply reminding us that going to seminary is both a privilege and a responsibility. We are becoming theologians, guardians of orthodoxy for our generation. And as such, we better know what those who have gone before us thought, and how they arrived at their conclusions, and why (or if?) those conclusions matter. And frankly, that stuff is messy. I wish it were neat and tidy, but it just isn't. Because God entrusted His Good News to human beings, and He continues to do so.

My professor's point was that we have to let the hard, confusing, difficult truths inform us. And then we have to let the Spirit transform us. Then, and only then, might we be ready to attempt to preach--and to handle His awesome Word of Truth with the dignity and respect it so deserves.

This "informing and transforming" feels a lot like being lost. And yet...I have the sense that I am being found as well.

I have found a profound respect for Christian orthodoxy.

I have found a deeper sense of awe for the person of God.

I have found a greater appreciation for the Scriptures.

I have found a surer faith in a few Truths. I've discovered the essentials.

I have found a genuine admiration for the broad and diverse family of God.

And I'm learning that not all doubt is unhealthy. Some doubts keep me humble. Those doubts are gifts of grace.

In the end, learning about God does not take the place of experiencing God. Knowing about Jesus is not the same thing as knowing Jesus. Believing in the Spirit is not that same thing as living in the Spirit. And if there's one thing all the questions and doubts have driven me to do, it's to cling to the One who saved me.

In fact, I think of when Jesus healed the man who was born blind, and how everyone questioned the poor guy about HOW he was healed. He doesn't know how it happened. All he knows is, "I was blind, and now I see."

Before seminary, my faith was full of answers. Now my faith is full of questions. But one thing I know: I was blind, and now I see.

He found me, despite the doubts and questions.

Jesus changes my life. Jesus makes me whole. Jesus fills my heart. Jesus gives me pupose. Jesus enables me to love. Jesus makes me holy.

I'm not sure everyone must wrestle with the complexities of faith, but I'm sure that we all go through periods of doubt and questions. In those moments, I suppose we have to take our cue from Jacob, the Old Testament patriarch. We wrestle with God, but we don't let go. We might get wounded in the fight, but we hold on until the blessing comes.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Aisles, Empty Nest, and "I DO"

 August 22, 1992, I walked down an aisle to marry the man that I love.

Today, August 22, 2016, exactly 24 years later, I watched another man that I love walk down another aisle--an airport corridor, actually, to head back to the States to begin his second year at Liberty University. 

Today, August 22, 2016, exactly 24 years later, I received a text message with a photo of another man that I love heading off on a bicycle to his first day of classes at Ivy Tech.

Suddenly, I'm keenly aware of the fact that we officially have an "empty nest." Who knew time could pass so quickly? How I cherished every minute! And I'm eager to cheer them on in their next steps. 

Many have warned me about the deep sense of loss that a mother might experience at this point in the parenting journey. I thought that perhaps I'd be immune from such sentiments. After all, I have a pretty full life, a busy ministry schedule, and all sorts of projects in the works, not to mention I'm in seminary. And it's not like those boys have needed much mothering these past few years.

And yet....

Yes, something has changed. Its not so much about a loss of identity, but a loss of proximity. They're still my boys, they're just, well, far. Far away from me. Getting on with life. Moving away. Moving on. 

As they should.

In the meantime, that guy to whom I said "I DO" 24 years ago is sitting by my side, holding my hand. Together we marvel at what has been and delight in what is still yet to be. 

This one I get to keep.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Changes for Chandler

This guy has had a rough year.

He attempted something that is considered a major challenge--he competed for a spot in medical school in France. It was a gruelling year-long fight, one that felt lost within months. He persevered to the end, and yet, he didn't make the cut. The process is so competitive that only 10-15% of the candidates actually get admitted.

When he learned his final results, he had some soul-searching to do. He no longer has the option to pursue medicine in France, but he could have chosen to go a different direction here. Or...he could return to the States, where the system gives undergraduates more time to make a decision about their ultimate career direction.

He has chosen to return to the States.

So tomorrow, Chandler will board a flight to Chicago, where my dear sister Barbarba will meet him and take him to her hometown of Bloomington, Indiana. Ultimately, Chandler plans to attend Indiana Univeristy, where my sister is a professor. But he'll spend the next year at Ivy Tech, establishing US residency and applying for admission to IU.

Please pray for Chandler as he makes this major leap. Pray for new friends--maybe even a few who speak French. Pray for direction as he tries to discern whether he wants to go pre-med or change directions. And pray that the overwhelming disappointment over the events of the past year does not steal his joy for what is possible in the years to come.

From the day he was born, Chandler has been a fighter. He's been knocked down, but never knocked out. He's got a lot more fight in him, and we're cheering him on with everything we've got!

We love you, Chan. And we couldn't be prouder.