Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Time of Transition

In the late summer the light changes.  The shadows are deeper, and the colors more somber.  The mornings often are foggy, though still it is warm and sunny during the midday.  And even though I am back at work as a school psychologist, and back to my studies at Kansas School for Ministry, there is something about time that has slowed down.  The turning of the seasons brings up once again the writing of an Ember Letter to my bishop, in which I tell him how I have been progressing in my spiritual development, what I have been learning in my studies, and how I have been living out my calling to be one who serves.

Until now the letters have been about falling in love.  My first answer to my calling was, "What?  Who, me?"  I was filled with mostly joy, though a little terror, in being called by God to be one of his priests.  My Bishop told me it would be difficult, but wonderful, and that the spiritual development was much more difficult and important than the acquisition of the material taught in seminary.  I began the lifelong discipline of Morning and Evening Prayer, and set forth on the path of trying to learn Holy Obedience.  Soon I was falling starry-eyed in love with God.  Every week brought a new lesson in loving God. Many of these lessons were very difficult and painful, but through them my self-confidence and joy have grown.  The response to the calling had become, "I was created to serve God, and I am happiest when I am following God's will for me."

After the week-long retreat in August I found my life turning topsy-turvy.  Now the lessons are about accepting that God loves me.  And with that acceptance comes the sure and certain knowledge that I am utterly undeserving of that love.  It is far more painful than the first set of lessons, but so wonderful to be loved in such a way!  I could not have tolerated looking inside myself if I had not been  encouraged by the Holy Spirit, held tightly by Christ as One who loves me, and had not at the same time subjected my self-will to the relentless, incisive laser beam of God's vision into my inmost thoughts.  Good thing we have the Holy Trinity!

Tomorrow afternoon I will stand before my Diocesan Standing Committee and the Commission on Ministry in a joint meeting, to request advancement from Postulancy to Candidacy.  After interviewing me,  the members of those committees will determine whether or not to allow me the advancement I seek.  I have examined myself, written my ember letter to the Bishop, and met with my spiritual director.  I am as prepared for the interview as I can be at this time.  I am very cognizant of my unworthiness, but also know that now my answer to the calling has become, "I ache and long for it with all my heart."  I hope and pray that by this time tomorrow, whether I have been told yet or not, that I will be one step closer to having the yoke of Christ placed upon my shoulders.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Back to Kansas School for Ministry

The new school year has begun.  Once a month I will be travelling to Topeka to spend the weekend attending classes at the Kansas School for Ministry.  Hard to believe I've been following my calling to ordained ministry for over two years now -- the first was a year of discernment within my parish church, and the second one was my first year at KSM.  Just last year I drove to Topeka to begin my first year of studying for the priesthood, not knowing what to expect, knowing only that I was there because God had called me, it looked like the best education I could find that was within possibility for me, and my Bishop had agreed.  The Bishop of Kansas and the director of KSM also agreed to allow a student from outside their diocese to attend the school.  It wasn't too hard to find Grace Cathedral, and after that, not too hard to find Bethany House where we were to eat, sleep, study, and worship with our faculty and fellow students.  It is a lovely, homelike native limestone residence on the Cathedral grounds.  I walked in with my overnight bag, found myself a bed in the women's dorm, and sat down on it to wonder what was going to happen.

Two women walked in.  I didn't know it then, but they were going to be two of my best friends ever.  We went downstairs for our first dinner together and met the rest of the students. We found among them a man who turned out to be the fourth member of our class, and met a lot of other people who already knew one another and had already established friendships and routine ways of being together.

For the first time in my life I was among a group of people who talked about God.  We studied harder than we have ever studied in our lives, and fell in love with everything we were learning.  We could hardly believe that we all had been called to be there, to be spiritually stretched, intellectually challenged, psychologically growing in ways that we could not have imagined.  It was a magic time, a Camelot, an Avalon; it was the wardrobe of C.S. Lewis, a place where we bathed in the Holy Spirit, danced in the light of Christ.  We were sheltered in a place where we could trust we were safe while we tried on and began to learn a new version of who we are.

As the year wore on, we suffered an inevitable series of disillusionments, for we had to re-learn what we really had known all along:  that this side of heaven there really is no safe place.  We are pilgrims, each charged with discovering and walking our unique way into the heart of God.  Certainly this journey includes the charge to love and help one another, especially through times of pain and suffering, but ultimately, each of us walks alone.