Between Here and There

I think it is the effect of reading early monastics. Or maybe it is why I found the early monastics so engaging. Maybe a mix of both.

I’m talking about my tendency to engage my inner emotions, complications, desires, and all that other ‘mushy’ sort of stuff that a more astute theologian or pastor might leave off to the side. It’s not becoming.

Yet, I see it as essential. I don’t know anyone else’s inner wrestling with God as much as my own. And in my own I have a lifetime of study, past-present-future, giving me a workbook of a life lived with God in this world.

Sometimes the process gets clogged. I lose my center, or I step in an uninformed direction, or I don’t sit enough staring at trees, letting the tangles of this life clutter my being. Or sometimes, more recently, I get caught up in happiness, and distraction, and surprising blessings.

I’ve said on occasion that I’m naturally a very shallow person. It’s true. Only God did not let me remain shallow. Or, rather, shallowness may have been my start but it is not his end. A big part of this deepening has been the divine No, that could be explained away by a longlasting series of unfortunate decisions and circumstances, or seen as a way God has driven me into self-examination and outward discovery of his work in this world.

I can go so fast, without paying attention, that those traffic lights and yield signs begin to blur. All the more when the lights aren’t red and I feel a go, go, go in my soul.

But there is a crumbling in that. And it becomes a different kind of weakening, a positive enervation, that instills worry, and doubt, and on-edge frustration.

My years in the mountain haven’t gone to waste, however, and I recognize this off-center place more readily, and begin the process of response even as the this-time is still always seems bigger than the already addressed issues of being’s past.

The this-time includes the almost perpetual refrain of not enough money (and the concerns of future school funds, rent, and all the other aspects of life) coupled with a newer reality of how to be a PhD student.

The former part, the bit about money, is the refrain that demands faith. I don’t really have faith. I mean I do, for the religious stuff, but when it comes to actual life? I am still wracked by doubt. I can say with some hope that I’ve not let this doubt interfere, thus my occasional ludicrous decisions, but it’s still there, undermining the moment as I press on towards the future. Makes for constant dissonance if I’m not careful.

The latter, the PhD part, is more tricky. Not least because it is couple with that first one. I need a scholarship to stay in school. I feel I need to perform to the level to get the scholarship renewed each year. This worry puts a strain on my openness and creativity. But it’s also more than that. I am more like an engineer than a theoretical physicist when it comes to theology. I want to see how ‘this fact’ relates to ‘that context’. I like to understand by application not theoretical analysis.

So, I’m realizing strong this morning that after most of a quarter as a PhD student I’ve not yet found how to be a PhD student, how I am best a PhD student. And in this refrain I see I’ve fairly responded with restraint. Caught between here and there I became silent both for here and there. There is a way, I feel it, to be both here and there at the same time.

And once again, the constant lesson, I have to let go in order to finally understand. I have to let go expectations and let go the future and let go trying to make sense and let go the weight that I put on myself to be an influential voice. I have to let go the pride–the pride that wants to sound impressive and the pride that makes me want to not sound impressive so I can better impress more people. I have to put aside the jealousy and I have to let go the yearning to be noticed, and applauded. I have to let go the deep tendency to hide and seclude and treasure my horded perceptions like a young dragon upon his gold.

I have to learn to speak and to be silent, to be truly still rather than merely stifled.

I have to learn to put my hope in the God who leads towards his future even as I live in this present.

I have been quiet because I have been worried, bothered by unresolved potentials, hopes shown but not settled.

I have to learn how to be free again, now among people.

I have to dance.

I see that, I feel that, now the question is how to be that not only in rhetoric but in real response.

My mind and soul have become knotted and I’ve justified that with all the excuses of my present dislocation. But it is precisely in the dislocation that we as Spirited people really can learn and trust and become.

I’m reminded of that this morning and pushed to renew the pursuit of God’s wholly Spirit in this life. This is my confession, of sorts, and my hope that if people are still roundabout this raven’s nest they’ll be free as well in what might become attempts at sketches, finding my center once more through tracing and practicing and exploring in ways that might not always be immediately accessible. I don’t know. I need to see what is now there and find that freedom to dance in the midst of the public square. And, honestly, I’m not really that confident that I’m a good or elegant dancer.

But I want to be. I need to stop worrying about making sense or pleasing particular aesthetics. The music is playing. Now is the time to step.

An added thought. In a letter to me, congratulating me on my entrance into advanced theological studies, Jurgen Moltmann ended with, “Have courage.”

That has become more weighty as time has passed, and I see that as being not only a kind word from a theologian at the pinnacle to one at the base, but also a divine call, the call to have courage to be wholly God’s in the place where he has put me, dissuaded neither by the common pursuits nor the expected fears. That is the word for me now, and onwards. Have courage. I do that, explore that, live that, I think I will see God more every day, culminating in that new beginning when I see him face to face.

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