Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

By the mystery of thy holy Incarnation; by thy holy Nativity
and submission to the Law; by thy Baptism, Fasting, and
Good Lord, deliver us.

Well, it’s all mystery to me.

You know, there’s nothing in there Jesus did, we haven’t done ourselves.

We are incarnate beings.
We were born.
We (as best we can, some days better than others) submit to God’s law.
We are bound by the waters of baptism.
We have fasted—not everyone always in the physical sense, but this can be emotionally or spiritual fasting.
We are faced with temptation every day.

These are not just “mysteries of Christ,” they are mysteries about us, too.

Maybe these are all ways that we connect to “the Christ in us.”

You know, one of the odd paradoxes in all this is, that in order for me to feel more connected to Christ, Jesus has had to become “more human” to me. I mean, go clear back to Sunday School days. It’s that whole business of Jesus being more of an “iconic figure” than a real person. I remember as a kid thinking, “How can I even feel close to this guy, when he seems so ‘not real’, like Santa or the Easter Bunny?” I would be told how he loves us...especially little kids...but then in the next breath it was all about how he’s perfect and we’re not, and even worse, laying on the guilt trip that Jesus is unhappy with you when you are bad.

Then, as I grew up, and began to cultivate a sense of “unworthiness.” He was a goal to which I could never attain. How can a person like that bring me closer to God? It just didn’t seem possible. My affinities are based on similarities, not differences.

In the two decades of being unchurched, I struggled with “historical Jesus.” I decided the way to get closer to Jesus was to figure out as much real historical fact I could find on him. In other words, in my usual scientific way, dissect him like a bug. What I found when I dissected him like a bug is that all those things like transfiguration and resurrection could not possibly be proved. So I just gave up on those things and decided that I could see him as a great teacher and a person who probably had a better connection to God than me and pretty much everyone else, but any of the things I could not “prove”, I would simply “refuse to believe.”

This was also during a time of the resurgence of fundamentalism, and I found myself even more disdainful and resentful of people who seemed to believe in Jesus like he was a fairy story, suspending any shred of scientific and historical fact, to believe it. I let them get in my way, because my natural inclination to that mindset was to “push against them.” I could believe in “Jesus the human” as a way for me to understand my own connection with God, but found his divinity hard to handle, because that put him in a different category than me. So I worked really hard at being a believer without a single shred of “faith-based belief.” Oddly enough, in some ways it was good, because it freed me from the yoke of needing to believe the Bible as a “perfect document” But in some ways it was bad because it closed my mind to think outside of my own five senses. But in retrospect, I think I had to go to that place in order for the next step to matter.

Then somewhere, along the way, I decided to “try one more time” with that church thing. It took me about six years of “thinking about trying” before I actually decided to do it. I had decided that if I was going to try it, it would be full bore; not half hearted. I am an “all or nothing” person, and I knew “halfway” would turn into nothing in about 18 months if I went halfway. It takes me about 12-18 months to burn out on anything I get infatuated or obsessed with that doesn’t “stick”.

Then, something really strange happened. I started seeing and noticing and feeling a whole lot of things that seemed “bigger than me.” It probably started the summer I worked on refinishing the church pews—just the sensations of holiness and things “bigger than me”--shekinah. I could sense “spiritual movement” in the architecture of the church. I could feel a “wind” coming off the altar. In some ways this had moments of awe, but in other ways, it was scary...because these were things that are not at all “real” in the scientific sense, but I was perceiving them with my five senses.

The last two years have been literally a cascade of sensory much so, I can get in fits of irritability, insecurity, and outright fear. But then they are followed by heightened awareness. The things I’ve looked at for years and enjoyed for their own sake have taken on deeper meanings...things like sunsets, and owls, and looking at “the best spot in the campground.” I always tell myself I can always quit and go back to the way it used to be, but that is a lie. I don’t think I can.

But in the middle of this, something weird happened. Somewhere in this, all of a sudden, the “facts” of things like transfiguration and resurrection no longer mattered. Somewhere in that mess, both the humanness and the divinity of Jesus became "real" to me. I could believe in the Resurrection because I could feel my own resurrection. Things like “virgin birth” did not matter to me anymore in terms of the reproductive dynamics of it, because I started realizing it’s all about outcome, not origin. Inside of me, something strange started growing...a tempest with a center of calm. I probably still do not reach the calm as much as I ought to. I still tend to “live in the tempest” just as I am attracted to powerful storms. But this calm in the center feels “new” to me. Once in a while, I can touch it.

I am absolutely sure my definition of “quiet” comes nowhere close to any real devotee of the standardized version of contemplative prayer. But it’s my quiet, and I can feel it. My quiet probably still looks like a 25 mph wind with 35 mph gusts to my vicar, who would probably hide under the bed in the presence of "my quiet." But it is quiet to me, and it wasn’t there before.

I have had to face another truth. If I don't listen to, and take ownership of, "my quiet," and accept it for that, I will fall into another trap. I will fall into the trap of living up to the expectations of other people's definition of "quiet." Jesus, I believe, will be okay with that. After all, he had "anal-retentive Matthew", and "gently descriptive Luke," and a bunch of his posse who didn't seem to say much of anything--and he had James and John, the "sons of thunder", and "always in your face" Peter...and they all "fit in."

I am sure over time, my quiet will morph into a more expansive quiet. But I am also convinced it will never morph into turning me into a model of silence, any more than my closet full of jeans will miraculously turn into a rack of prom dresses. "Mine" will never be like anyone else's, and I have to, once again, accept "being different."




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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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