So as a third year seminarian, I would hope that I have learned a few things while in training for ministry. I know how to parse a Greek verb, why homoiousious is heresy, the meaning of silly terms like communicatio idiomatum and perichoresis... why St. Augustine is both a misogynist and amazingly liberating at the same time, how many angel can dance on the head of a pin - any why it does (or not) matter... and other abstruse thoughts.
And I've learned a few other important things. Double espressos at 10:30 at night don't actually make for a better paper, just a long long night of circular thoughts. Deadlines matter, but funerals and surgical emergencies ARE more important. People need encouragement. Tea really does make most problems a little bit more bearable, especially if it is made by a good friend and accompanied by a shoulder to cry on. Friends are the stuff that gets us through the day. Chocolate is good medicine. Six hours of sleep at night is imperative, anything less inevitably results in sickness.
But more interesting than these relatively easy lessons are the more difficult ones. And recently, it seems that God has been interested in teaching me some of the rather complicated lessons.
First: Life is messy, and that is not a bad thing. It is complicated to live in community, to care about people and to attempt to both respect their boundaries and participate in their lives. The messiness is not a problem, necessarily, but it does preclude easy answers or treating people as objects or stereotypes, for when we truly attempt to connect with one another, we have to expect we will disagree on things that matter, people will act in unexpected ways, and will make you both laugh and cry at the most unexpected moments.
Second: God is actually more mysterious than we can even begin to imagine. Just when I think I have a vague clue about how God is relating in my life, or where I am headed, God reminds me that any image of God is inherently heresy- for God is greater than our language, our imagination, even our sight. And yet, God is also so very present in the little kids in church who smile and giggle. God is abundant in the cool breezes of cool days at the end of summer.
Third: tensions, chaos and uncertainty are the stuff of life. Don't just bear them, but learn to enjoy them if possible. For example - Jesus walked on water, but then invited Peter to do the same (or you could argue Peter asked him to invite him... but that's another discussion)... and Peter DID - stepped out of the boat, unsure if he would actually succeed or not. And it was only as he kept his eyes upon Jesus that he stayed up. When he looked away, he fell down. Now I'm not going to say anything stupid here about just focus upon Jesus and everything will work out, but I would say that in the midst of the storm and the water, Peter did not need a water tight boat or a bridge, but he did need faith.
And this summer, I've spent a good bit of the time feeling like Peter, sinking into the water, surrounded by storm, Called out into the chaos and then apparently abandoned by Jesus. But the thing is, I neither drowned nor ended up back in the boat. I'm still out on the water, and the storm is still sending down lightening and thunder. but I'm not dead yet! and I'm no longer sinking. And do you know what the difference is? the only difference is that I am not alone. The Spirit is sustaining us out in the midst of the water and storm - and guiding me to see the goal, the hope and the focus upon Jesus. But it is not easy.
That is the last lesson: There are no worthwhile easy answers. Generally, the easy answers don't actually solve anything. And a single step solution just avoids part of the true complexity of a problem. But that things are complex or difficult does not mean that we should not participate in the solution. And that is why I can work at a homeless shelter, knowing that thousands of people will never find us. Thousands will freeze next winter because we are not big enough; and that is NOT OK. but we do our small part. And you do yours, and the Holy Spirit is doing her big important part, and in the end, one tiny solution at a time, the Kin-dom of God is coming. One reconciled relationship at a time, we are becoming the body of Christ.
So, it is going to be messy, mysterious, uncertain and complex, but we walk in the Holy Spirit, and we walk together.