There are days where I miss Nanny desperately. There are moments where the reality that I will never meet my birth father in this life sets in and I feel something similar to Mack's Great Sadness settle on top of me. There are times where my own brokenness is so tangible that I barely want to leave the bed. Yet in each of these instances, I somehow find God holding onto me, refusing to let go.
It is in those moments when I believe something else is needed. Not a savior or a liberator, but something else. Someone else. Someone willing to sit with you in the anxiety and depression and pain. Someone who won't talk your ear off with clichés or platitudes, but will sit there in the absolute silence, awkward as it may be, and wait—wait until you're ready, until you have a little more energy, a little more strength. It is in these times and places, be they deaths, depression, hallucinations, rapes, assaults, or any other moment of sheer agony, that we just might need God to show up and be. No magic tricks. No saving. No liberating. Just sitting down next to us. No consolation. Just presence.
For many [fundamental] evangelical Christians today, when they hear the word "eschatology," their minds jump to the rapture, to the tribulation, to the battle of Armageddon. To some ambiguous anti-Christ and his prophet. To some B-movie where Kirk Cameron proves to us yet again why he should have stopped with Growing Pains (apparently there's a new version coming out starring Nicholas Cage, Ashley Tisdale, and Chad Michael Murray... just when you think certain careers can't sink any lower).
Yet there's something wrong with this mentality. There's something missing...
When I was growing up, I remember countless funerals where people would remark on the current state of the person being mourned. "She's with her Savior." "God called her home." "She's not in pain anymore." "It was her time." Back then, blanket statements used to bring me comfort. When your grandmother was one of fifteen siblings, and the generation before had almost as many, you went to a lot of funerals. Back then, I didn't ask questions.
It's noon. If we were on Jerusalem time, we would be anticipating the moment where the lights go out, where darkness covered the land. We'd be approaching the beginning of the final three hours before Jesus spoke his last words and heaved his last breath. We'd be getting closer and closer to the moment where the veil separating the sacred from the profane. In short, we'd be nearing the end.
In life, people come and people go. Relationships last for a moment, and they last for a lifetime. We feel pain, and we cause it. We face dilemmas, and sometimes they take a while to be solved. As the Explorer told us Saturday night, life is about balance. Sometimes it comes naturally, but more often than not, we have to work at it. Though I initially named my blog Finding the Balance on a whim, over time, I've realized the significance of its title for me personally (and apparently for many of you). Balance is hard, and we cannot find it alone.
This morning, I had the privilege of preaching for our "contemporary" chapel service. It was the first time I'd preached since my last sermon at Irving Park last spring. It was my first time preaching at my school outside of the classroom setting. Needless to say, I was somewhat nervous.
Part of my nerves came from having had a lot happen lately. I'm in my third year of seminary. I'm taking a course that forces me to think both of my entitlement and my oppression. I'm interning with an organization that engages the very denominations who look at queer people like me and see nothing but stereotypes and often feel nothing but disdain. I've just recently had a talk telling my mother that our phone conversations often left me feeling hurt and unheard, and therefore needed to be put on hold until the holidays. I've been working through my grief more. I've continued watching my diet, though my yoga practice has been put on hold due to a shoulder injury (a.k.a. stupidity on my part). I've decided to go a different route with my ministry, at least denominationally.
After writing my sermon last week, I sent it off to my former preaching professor for some edits and feedback, all of which I took into consideration when compiling my final draft. I got up there, and I just let go. From the first word, it was out of my hands. Now I personally think (or prefer to think) of preaching as an intimate act. It's a giving of myself to the people listening, and it comes with a prayer that they will be able to use part of that gift to deepen their own spirituality. Part of the challenge with seeing preaching as an intimate act is that I have the habit of dropping my volume as if in the midst of a sincerely intimate conversation. Unfortunately for preaching, this doesn't work all that well.
Another challenge for me, when it comes to preaching, I have a hard time believing that anything I have to say, to add to the conversation being had, is all that valuable or beneficial for anyone else to hear. Granted, according to what I've been reading in Henry Nouwen's Life of the Beloved, this is just a form of self-rejection, of denying the reality that I'm a beloved child of God with a uniqueness about me that no one else has. In any case, it's hard... not just for me, but for many of us.
After the service was over, several classmates and professors came up to me with affirmations and encouragement. But one in particular meant a lot to me. This particular professor is a self-admitted hard-ass with a tendency to be intimidating. I feel alright writing this because we've already had a conversation about this. In our brief encounter, he offered a much-needed critique about projection and articulation. I know it's an area of struggle for me, so I wasn't surprised. What did surprise me was when he looked me dead in the eyes, with a smile on his face nonetheless (something else that's often hard to earn), and told me, "You've got some really quality stuff here. You've got something important, really important to say, and I want to hear it."
It's hard to put into words what this compliment meant to me. Having come to some difficult conclusions lately about life, the universe, and everything, it's been challenging to trust my own voice, my own views. It's been hard to believe in my own value and worth. So to have this man whom I've not had as a professor and who only knows me in a fairly superficial sense speak this blessing onto me was invaluable. Personally, one of my strongest love languages is words of affirmation. It's important to me for those whom I love to know that I love them and to know why I love them so deeply. This is something we all need... someone to tell us that our voice matters, that our smiles and hugs make a difference, that our existence makes the world better. While it might not always feel like it, everyone in our lives is there for a reason, has something to offer us, and and has something to gain from our presence in their lives. It's a simple reality in theory, but it's difficult to assimilate and put into practice. Regardless, I strongly believe that when we remind others of their belovedness and we let others remind us of our own belovedness, we make community happen, and we make life better for everyone.