Monday, August 6, 2007

Where I Stand

I have so far wiled away the better part of my summer in my room, sipping iced tea, playing countless games of Literati against people better at word games than I, and watching enough baseball and mediocre movies to fill a lifetime. I had set out to do some soul searching but instead opted for the easier option of simply peacing out for three months. Now I face the coming school year with few issues sorted out and a nagging array of questions that simply will not go away.

The thing that continues to weigh heaviest of all on my mind is a suffocating dread of one day waking up to realize I have let my life pass by without having ever really accomplished anything. I have taken a few pains to try to responsibly alleviate this fear by actually doing something tangible about it. With the help of my Vocational Rehabilitation counselor, I have discovered my dreams are not impossible to carry out. Going to seminary is feasible financially and can lead to a profession I'm well suited for. Teaching theology at a Christian university or teaching religious studies at a more secular institution would be a dream job for me, and going to seminary is a good start in that direction.

But there's a fear attached to this as well, or maybe this is the real heart of the fear I'm in the process of unfolding. I fear being a disappointment to God my whole life. I fear that I will continue to cheapen His grace by not allowing it to transform my life as fully as He intends or, worse, not at all. Am I getting better from the sickness of sin? Not right now. I guess I decided to peace out spiritually for the summer too. It seems like every time I slip that I lose more ground toward Christlikeness than I had previously gained. That's why I'm unworthy to shepard a flock. A minister of the Gospel must be good on both theory and practice; I seem to only excel on theory. But how can I teach the truths of the Faith if my life does not demonstrate a high degree of fidelity to them? I must get better is the only answer.

How do I do that? "Let God transform you inside out." Yes, that's true, but how to let God is mysterious to me. Perhaps my theory's not right. Maybe that's my problem. I have thought long and hard on how imaginitively and practically barren my Christianity is. I need ways of connecting with Jesus that do not depend so much on emotional response but on something more tangible. Trying to drum up emotion in prayer is a prison; it has stolen the spontaneity of the Christian life that it promised. It has made me feel farther from God and more constrained than I'm now sure a more structured and more variously ritualized Christianity would. And this is by no means a rejection of a sola fide Christian faith. This isn't what I think the trouble is. It's the warping of this doctrine that over-emphasizes the necessity of "really meaning it" or "personally experiencing God." Of course, this is true, but don't we elevate emotion just as high by this over-insistence as the Reformers accused the Catholic Church of their day of doing with ritual and sacrament. Both are errors equally destructive to vital communion with God. Isn't a truly faith affirming Christianity one where Jesus is easily found in the Holy Spirit, spontaneous individual prayer, the Bible, and communion with other believers, but also in the liturgy, formal prayers, ancient creeds, bread and wine, and baptismal waters of the institutional Church. That's what I need. I need grace that I can access anywhere and everywhere. Of course, that's the Christ we serve. He gives grace abundantly to His people. I just need more reminders of that, and I need avenues of connecting with Him that don't require a great emotional response in order to know I've met with Him.

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