Saturday, May 16, 2009

Prelude to Change: How I Got Where I am Now

First, an observation. As I look back on the 4+ years of blogging and even longer of attempting various journals, I notice one constant. When God seems to be doing a lot in my heart, and teaching me things, I tend to get engrossed in those so much that writing about them usually falls by the wayside. It is much easier for me to vent over frustrations in writing (whether public or private) than it is to get out my thoughts during the good times/fruitful times. The last two months have been a great example of this. After a fairly long adjustment to life back in Cincinnati, I have finally come out of a state of depression and anxiety into a time of joy and growth. Unfortunately, unless you are someone I come into contact with regularly, you may not even have noticed. I certainly have not said much about it online that is for sure!

I recently began attending St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Anderson Township, and being involved in a church on a regular basis has been one major flank in this time of change. One source of my depression over the last few years has been a lack of experiencing and participating in God’s Church. I made a very foolish decision in 2006 to leave the church I had been attending for one which had more young adults. Now there were a few reasons for this at the time. One was that as wonderful as Fuller Seminary was, it was still a grad school, and as such was not a place where people staid very long. So, many friends I had made when I first came to Pasadena had moved on or were moving on. Another reason was that the church I was at was very small, and it seemed that most people were 10+ years older than I was, and the ones closer to my age were all married. The people there were wonderful, and I recognize that leaving that church was a very big error in my personal judgment. Nonetheless, I felt pretty alone and made the hard choice to leave.

The church I began attending ended up not being a very good fit. I never really understood why this was. One of my good friends seemed to fit in just fine with all the new people there. However, I always felt like an outsider there. I began volunteering with the hopes that I would meet people, but nothing ever moved beyond a superficial acquaintance level, and the friend I began attending with sort of drifted further away.

From then on I admit that my church search has not really ever been the most disciplined. I can look back and see a spiral of depression which both came from various experiences and also contributed to my lack of interest in other experiences. Even this fall when I did find a church I really enjoyed, my depression kicked back in and I began to recede from participating there as well.

I am not going to argue that there was a divine reason for why I never found a church home. I do believe that God wanted me to commit to a church in that time span, however various things, including my own selfishness and stubbornness precluded that from happening. I will argue instead that the Lord has brought me to St. Timothy’s at just the right time. I had begun attending just a couple of weeks before Easter. I had already had a massive failure on my attempt at a long term fast, and basically things were on course for another spiritually dry Easter time for me.

Then Holy Week arrived.

I had an urging from within to try and attend the entire week of services. The realistic side of me figured I would go a few times that week, but that the chances of me following through for the whole week were pretty slim. I believe God had loftier plans that week because I found myself in the pews every night from Palm Sunday to the Easter Vigil the following Saturday. It was certainly not out of any desire to be more spiritual than others. It was almost as if I didn’t have a choice in the matter.

That week is one which will stand out as a profound experience in my spiritual journey. One of the beautiful things about Holy Week is that not only does it give more attention to the entire passion narrative than you find in any Easter Sunday service, it also allows you to do this side by side and in communion with others. Obviously any church gathering is like this, but having that reinforced night after night is hard to walk away from unaffected. I strongly encourage anyone who has not participated in a full Holy Week to try and do so next year. Even if your church doesn’t observe Easter in this way, there are many denominations which do.
As a result of the Spirit being rekindled within me by the grace of God in this time, I have been led back into a time of study and contemplation. My thirst for reading and thinking on God, theology and the Church has increased greatly, and my desire to get all my thoughts down in writing has yet to catch up.

I met with the pastor of the church this week and we had a wonderful discussion about many things, but what began to sink in during the conversation was just how much God is doing in my life lately. I hope to start posting on some of these issues here in the next couple of weeks (although given my track record it will probably be spread out even longer). The major things I feel God has led me to start processing are a mix of abstract and practical theological issues. I have been thinking a lot on ordination, justification, non-violence, and vegetarianism in particular; as well as how to put my beliefs into action. These are certainly not all I have dwelt on, but they are probably the ones I have dwelt on the most.


Thomas said...

Nice, glad to see such a pleasant change.

Now I need to work on my change.

Laura said...

I always feel that way (slightly anxious). Not to say I hated the church we went to when I was a kind, but I've never managed to find one that doesn't creep me out. It makes me sad.