Last week I participated in what was to be the final meeting of a contemplative group that I had participated in bi-weekly for the past two months. Anyone who knows me would recognize the irony of my involvement in such a group. I am a unique individual. I think much, perhaps too much. I am loud, frequently too loud. And I have never been accused of being too serious in my approach to matters of faith. In fact, some would consider my approach to theology as being to flippant, too irreverent, or too unorthodox for the vocational ministry to which I have committed my life. However, I chose to engage in this community of Christian believers for the sake of finding peace within myself. I was invited by a friend who frequently assists in my search for peace, a friend I trust, and so I took a chance on being an outsider in the midst of a journey inside. I was seeking clarity so I could have certainty for the journey of my future; I was seeking what I would not find.
Throughout the four meetings of this group of twelve searching souls we explored faith through the eyes of poetry, photography, music, cinematography, and community sharing of story. There were moments in which I was frightened by my inclination to so easily trust in this group. So many different dynamics were present for me, and for everyone, but somehow we found our way to a courageous journey. We found our way to unknowing.
I began a journey of a contemplative path praying that God would provide some answer to the confusion that sometimes overwhelms me in my day to day life. I live out moments praying that I will find some sort of clarity or wisdom that will mean hope or direction to a desperate soul that is hurting, or even for myself. I want to be able to give the answers that are sought, that control makes me feel comfortable in my role as a minister. I want to be able to make hurting stop, but I forget my place in those moments of desire to meet needs that I cannot answer. In those moments I am not equipped to provide cessation of hurting or an answer for a God big enough to defend Godself. In those times I am to embrace the moments of misunderstanding and heartache with a stranger and be present as an ambassador of Christ. I am a tangible shoulder without an answer, without explanation; simply present and honest. The journey with strangers and friends, toward answers and resolution, brought only reconciliation within me; reconciliation with the unknowing that I face and fear each day.
In the deepest moments of the contemplative group when I was sent from a large meeting into a moment of solitude for reflection, I found myself distraught to the point of tears and trembling at the un-definable mystery that surrounds the movements of the Trinitarian God in, with, and through the human journey. I found myself afraid at the inexplicable presence and absence of God in my prayers and wondering, and yet my faith remained. I found myself asking what had driven me forever forward through my life and led me from one love to another, out of darkness and into light. I found myself asking if it was happenstance or God. The answer came comfortably, but at the root of a question asked with much difficulty; God.
I am sustained by a God that I cannot always name; one I cannot adequately protect from the anger and hatred from some in this world- as though that were my job at all. The reciprocity of the love I hold for this immeasurable, indefinable, incomprehensible entity is found in my submission to un-answers to questions held delicately in the delicate palms of my prayers. This submission brings more powerlessness, but deeper love. I read John chapter three with new eyes, “..John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.”
I am called to the service of God, the service of God’s people and Church. I seek answers to know that I am prepared for the task, at least to a point. I continue seeking, not for the sake of preparedness, but for the sake of expertise that will justify my place in leadership because I do not feel worthy to lead. To know a great deal of theology means that I have read a great deal on the topic of God. To lead in God’s church, to minister, does not mean claiming authority- at least as this world would define it. To minister, in a manner that is honest to the Christ who ministered first, we submit to questions put forth through our path and the journeys that intertwine. In becoming less, we acknowledge that we are not now, nor can we become enough to answer the questions believers and our minds bring to us. In becoming less we settle for the mystery and unknowing that come from moments of contemplation and inexplicable hope at our darkest moments. Then, when we- our minds and ideals of control- are less; then God, our love wound up in the overwhelming sense of Divine, is more.