Calling, Contentment, and Consideration part 1

The other night I was woken up around eleven in the evening by screen doors being opened and shut in the apartment complex right behind our bedroom. Probably two or three different people and there was about seven or eight goings in or goings out within a ten minute span. Enough to wake me up pretty thoroughly, and I was up again until about midnight. During that wee span of re-awakedness I read a bit of Moltmann, but truth be told my studying skills shut off around 6pm, so I don’t quite have the focus to get much done. I’m a morning person, able to get up quite early and thrive in writing and reading the most when others are still groggy.

Morning arrived, and I slept in, partly because of that late night, and partially because I averaged about 6 hours of sleep the previous few nights working on other projects–going to bed late and getting up early. I was woken up by more screen doors, but at 8:30 in the morning that’s hardly to be avoided. There was a flurry of such for a long while, irritating me to the point I posted a wee rant on my Facebook page about being bothered by so many openings and closings of doors. I use my facebook status as a random indicator of my thoughts, sometimes whimsical, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes irritable. The latter lesser than I used to, but still they do pop up. And generally, once my comment is expressed and posted I feel myself a bit of a crank.

Those who have followed this blog for a while–way back to when I posted regularly–know that I tend to be much more of a contemplative. I exult in God’s creation, feeling my spirit lifted by God’s Spirit in the midst of trees, and lakes, and open fields. I delight in the variety of birds and beasts and insects. I breathe deeply of the intoxicating wild and feel renewed. In this renewal, my thoughts wander and explore, I feel close to God and I am able to write better, interact more helpfully, and otherwise find recharging for what are my positive contributions to the world around me. My ministry is fueled by times of quiet. I’m an introvert, to be sure.

But I don’t live in the forest, near a deserted beach, on a mountain, or surrounded by vast swaths of open land. I do live near a lake, but it’s Lake Avenue, not an invigorating body of water on which I can paddle my kayak, unknot my thoughts, and drift into prayers of hope and praise.

My comment about screen doors prompted a few replies over on Facebook, mostly funny jabs at my crankiness, which made me laugh and honestly helped bring some humor back to me. I can certainly be cranky, but I’m aware of the fact and have a sense of humor about myself and my tendencies. At one point a friend made the comment that I should live in an old farmhouse in the middle of an empty field. To which I replied, “I’d love to.” Indeed I would. That would be really great. I would love to live in the midst of nature, where my thoughts could run free, and in their running free find expression in writing or conversation or other contributions. She was right that’s what I would like to do.

But, I added in my response–bringing a bit of consideration to my frustrations–where I feel I “should” be is different than where God has me. That’s the tension of the spiritual life. Where we feel is the ideal location for us is very rarely the place God has us. I suppose he knows things we don’t and one of the things he knows is that spiritual growth is often not pursued in places of quiet contentment. That’s why we talk of the wilderness experiences that lead us to becoming more of God’s people, rather than the oasis experiences.

The house in the middle of the forest or near a quiet beach or in the midst of a dewy meadow that has a stream running through it is the place where I’d feel most joy and renewal.

The place God has me, right now, is in an apartment, surrounded by many other apartments, less than a block away from a major interstate highway, in the middle of a busy city where there is fairly constant gas powered blowers, trash trucks picking up dumpsters, helicopters flying over, people talking, and yes a whole lot of screen doors being opened (squeak!) and shut (clank!), often all of these much after I would prefer to go to bed (which is ideally around 9:30).

Now, I know this is the place God has me. I have no doubt of that. I tried other paths, and there was a very clear no. There was a very clear yes in the process of me coming back to seminary and stepping up my education another notch. I had a lot of excuses not to go. One by one, like with Moses in Exodus 4, my reasons were addressed. The biggest–money–was addressed by being given a full fellowship to cover tuition. I have too many loans from earlier education to pay for any more, and if I couldn’t pay, I couldn’t take classes. God took care of that. More than just sustenance, God also sent me a wonderful woman to be my companion in this next stage of life. God had called me back from the wilderness, and given me a partner with whom to re-engage the active world, and to join me in my new city life. I could go on and on. But all this is to say, I know this is where God has me.

So, I need perspective, right? Of course. That’s the calling of contentment in the midst of a spirituality that does not say we are to be thankful only in the ideal, but rather are to be thankful especially in the midst of struggles and troubles. That’s the challenge of my present spirituality. A contemplative in the midst of a busy city has to learn how to find contemplation in the midst of busyness. This is my daily challenge, which I am variously successful at meeting, and sometimes completely failing at it altogether.

But, I think about this more. This is certainly my calling to contentment in this place that God has me, which is not the place I would have myself if I had my choice, but my deeper choice throughout my life has been to pursue God’s choices more than my own. This has led me down absurd trails, caused me to make socially inexplicable decisions, and otherwise pushed me away from making sense to most anyone around.

There is, however, more to this calling, this present calling, than living in the city. God did not put me here only to leave me. He continues to call, and point both Amy and me towards new tasks, new thoughts, new opportunities. I consider this calling a little bit more, and it adds a bit more texture to my thoughts about this life in the city and those noises that frustrate and challenge me.

But this present post has become too long for those thoughts, so this means another “to be continued…”

This entry was posted in academia, Amy, around the house, contemplation, God We Wouldn't Expect, missional, nature, personal, spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

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