Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lenten Confessional


I already screwed up Lent.

I don't write about my own life a lot. It's safer to stick to the realm of ideas. Stories, theology, film, whatever. Quotes. On the one hand, there's a level of self-disclosure sometimes done in the blogosphere that is over-sharing plain and simple. But if you're trying to establish sensible boundaries, where do you draw the line? On the other hand there's a typically Christian way of relaying autobiography which collapses all your life stories into Bible lessons--I have to think there's at least a thousand bloggers out there doing that if not thousands more. And I don't want to say that God isn't actively at work in my life--even if my seminary life often feels more like the stage of the hidden God of Joseph and Esther's stories than that of the "over-sharing" (to twist a phrase) of the Jesus of John's gospel.

What I'm saying is that life can be confusing. The Christian life can be confusing, frustrating, maddening. "Is" and "ought" sometimes seem such distance relatives and at times enemies. Frankly I am jealous of those who don't seem to live as painfully in this tension as I do. I can't help but feel they are naive about what it means to be deeply troubled and, by Christ, demonstrably rescued. Except those who I personally know have been there and back again. That's at least part of what draws me to a church for the homeless, to a chaplaincy for the incarcerated. There, but for the grace of God, go I. There being addiction, crime and madness. There's some self-diclosure. Enjoy it because that one's free. I'm not saying I'm mad, Mad Hatter mad, though "We all go a little mad sometimes" (cough cough). I'm saying without the risen Lord Jesus I'd have been twisted into some tragic Lovecraftian sap some time ago.

Because this world has been twisted by evil--"more machine than man", to twist another phrase.


"We're all mad here."

I had a kind of stress-splosion on Fat Tuesday. Not from pancakes or debauchery, but just life piling on. I started out the semester behind, especially in Hebrew; catching up has been a Sisyphean labor. It's telling that I'm more comfortable describing this dilemma with a Greek myth than a Christian one.* So I slept through our Ash Wednesday service at school and didn't participate in our campus-wide Quiet Day. Before Lent had started, I was avoiding it. On Thursday I kind of came to my senses, started back to school work, prayed, decided on a seasonal discipline. And I realized what I already knew: I need a healthy and sacred way of dealing with stress because I absolutely suck at it.

I was glad to go with friends last night to my church to hear Wesley and Stacey Campbell, a couple with a prophetic ministry who I'm aware from my years in the charismatic world but really have no prior exposure to. I was encouraged by their intuitive and demonstrable grasp of Scripture applied in the moment and in the Spirit, such that prophetic words being spoken to other people were encouraging to me since they were such richly contextualized exhortations from Scripture. I especially took to heart words spoken to one woman about persevering in adversity and difficulty, allowing God to form your character and gifting, trusting him through the wilderness and the process.

I have trust issues with the charismatic world and--more irreconcilably--intellectual issues. But I realized last night that I want to try to live into that world and into that spiritual heritage even more, even if it's frustrating and annoying at times. Because as much as I love the Anglican church, "You can take the boy out of the charismatics, but you can't take the charismatic out of the boy" (to twist yet again). This goes back to a minor argument I got into with friends for posting a link to some emergent person saying we "We need more God, not more about God." I know and remember what it means to be in his presence, sense the Spirit personally and powerfully, be reassured at some level that transcends regular knowing of the reality of the one God, his love and his strength. Frankly seminary has not been filled with that kind of knowledge, although I have no doubt many of my colleagues and professors possess or have been possessed by it at one time or another such as myself.

I saw at work last night the good (the manifest presence of Christ) and the bad (an anti-intellectual dualism characterizing worship and other ways of relating to God, though not from the couple who were the guest speakers). And I want both goods. I want the good of seminary, which tells me when I hear a worship song whose lyrics are non-sensical that I shouldn't sing them, and the good of the charismatic world, which leads me into a deep place of sacred communion that engages the heart. One, the academic and Anglican world, is better at engaging the mind, the other, the charismatic world, is better at engaging the heart and the body. The kingdom of God means engaging the whole person with the reality of the risen Christ.

*A true myth, of course, as Lewis said.

1 comment:

Seretha said...

You know I want to do my doctoral work on the Spanish Mystics because they combine the two, right? "Charismatic" (or mystical) experience and solid, intellectual-embracing theology. You really don't have to choose, but I'll admit there aren't many people who are trumpeting this.