Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Endings and Beginnings

The remains of Immanuel Chapel and the new Immanuel Chapel at dusk.

Welcome to three years of intense community-living.
OK, that's not what they said, but that was my sense at the end of today's first day of orientation at Virginia Theological Seminary. 
This has been a very long, strange trip to get to this point. And I had a very long drive with Isabelle, made longer by rainstorms and insane amounts of traffic on I-95, to reflect on where I have been, what I was leaving, and....
What the hell am I doing?!?!?!?
I had a happy life with a cat who had become very attached to me. My spouse and I have been through many ups and downs and twists and turns together for more than 27 years. I have friends, some very close to me. I had a massage practice with wonderful clients and participated in all the antics of the Mickee Faust Club. 
And yet....here I am. 
It made me think about all those stories in the Gospels about the calling of the various disciples. The way the evangelists tell it, Peter and Andrew and James and John and Matthew and all the others caught sight of Jesus, heard "Follow me," and just dropped their lives and went on their way after this itinerant rabbi who was preaching a radical old idea of love God and love your self and your neighbors with no asterisk or black out dates. I wondered, "Really? Did these guys just so easily and willingly drop their lives to follow Jesus?! Didn't they think this was a bit wild? Did our chroniclers of Jesus' life and miracles clean these stories to avoid the messiness of human attachment and emotion?"
After my own experience, I am convinced that if we wanted to do some midrash on these stories, we'd find that it wasn't so easy for them either. In fact, we get hints of that, dropped here and there in the Gospels, where these followers of Christ express frustration with their decision to leave behind everything. In Matthew's Gospel, right after Jesus informs the rich man that to "be perfect" he needs to sell all of his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow Jesus, Peter basically says, "We sold everything. We have nothing. What about us?" Later, in that same Gospel, the disciples get testy with each other about who is the greatest apostle of them all. It is the attachment to things, to comforts, that seem to needle at the apostles in ways that I, as one who is going through that process of endings and beginnings, can relate. Even if our evangelists don't outright tell us things, my sense is that the women who followed Jesus and the men who get the credit for being "the twelve" had parts of them that were pained in all of this, and had hoped for something not as a difficult. Even the greatest of saints can get the blues.
With that in mind, I guess I'm in good company. Certainly in the first few days of meeting my new classmates, I can sense that I am not the only one who is experiencing the pain of separating from all that was familiar to embark on something as countercultural as devoting your life to love and serve for the purpose of extending God's Love to a world that isn't fair, isn't just, and can be unbelievably mean. 
Will somebody help my cat understand that?

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