These are some rough, unpolished thoughts I originally posted as a status update on my facebook page. I am posting them here slightly edited and now expanded.
2012 in review: Its been marked with acute suffering and struggle – financially, physically and health wise (I just wish Christie didn’t have to hurt and suffer so, and that we had the means to get her the medical care she needs), and spiritually (every hear of the dark night of the soul). We have seen the faithfulness of God at work in many ways though, even if it seems God has chosen to keep us on a one day at a time, and even a one moment at a time type arrangement. We have experienced the reality of the provision of DAILY bread, of which the Lord’s Prayer speaks. 2012 has honestly been one of the hardest and most difficult for us ever.
Through the struggling, suffering, and lamenting (and yes, times of rejoicing and celebrating too) I have (re)learned these things (in no particular order):
*The dark night of the soul is not to be resisted. It is to be welcomed as a gift from God. Give up control. It is best to embrace the dark night. Let Father, Son, and Spirit do their work.
*Being ‘Radical’ or ‘Crazy’ (highly touted in some North American Evangelical circles I know) is highly overrated. The greatest acts of faithfulness occur in the simple everyday, mundane stuff of life. This is where the kingdom of Jesus our liberating king is most present.
*One of the most important practices Christians need to learn in this age is how to listen well. Listening is a basic hermeneutical act of love and foundational theological practice. True listening will lead to lament (and this may be why many try to avoid true listening).
*Another practice Christians need to learn is how to lament well. This is a practice that I’ve seen most Christians avoid at all costs. I’ve witnessed the reading of lament Psalms that are simultaneously ignored even as they are read aloud. But lament is a vital part of the grammar of the kingdom, of learning how to ‘speak’ distinctively Christian in a broken world. To be a gospel and kingdom shaped people we need lament. To find our way to true kingdom shaped joy we need lament. I am truly convinced of this.
*The practice of theology demands that we learn how to ask wise questions, not simply seek proof texts for pre-formed answers.
*I am more in love with my wife now than ever before. She inspires me with her faithfulness more than anyone else. She’s beautiful inside and out!
*My daughter Damaris amazes me every day.
*My wife and daughter are a part of God’s provision of every day grace to me – the sacramental enchantment of my world.
*I wish that I had been introduced to a sacramental understanding of the world as a child (but the Baptist churches I grew up in were unprepared/unwilling to do anything like that). One’s view of, well everything and even the smallest of things, changes when the world is charged and enchanted with the grace of God. (And yes, one can still be basically free church/Baptist and sacramental too.)
*All is gift. Everything I have and have been entrusted with is gift and a part of the sacramental enchantment of the world, no matter how mundane it may seem. I am grateful and thankful.
*Sometimes I feel so very obscure, like no one is listening. Sometimes I contemplate changing the name of my blog from ‘DesperateTheologian’ to ‘ObscureTheologian’.
*I have never been more aware of or clear on my God given vocation as an ecclesial theologian, or a theologian for the church, tasked with doing my part to enable faithfulness to the gospel of our liberating king in a post-christendom context. To do (and teach) theology that is at once academically rigorous, creative, imaginative and ecclesially/missionally/spiritually faithful in everyday life.
*I have never been more sure of the need for a robust trinitarian spirituality worked out in narrative and missional praxis (see the header to this blog) as the means to gospel faithfulness – and my desire to be involved in providing spiritual direction and formation towards these ends.
*I don’t know how this will tangibly play out for me personally – though I have some hopes and dreams I am pursuing. I know that I can’t force anything. God does not simply work despite my weakness and failure. (Yes, I said failure. Despite what many tell me I think its ok to admit that we have failed at things, important things even.) God works in and through my weakness and failure. My weakness and failure become sacraments and means of grace in God’s economy.
*All we have to rely on right now is the faithfulness of our triune God and our liberating King Jesus. Faithfulness one step at a time. And this strikes me as entirely and especially appropriate for a ‘theologian.’ I think we should all be theologians in this sense. Perhaps this is the way it’s supposed to have been all along (and perhaps its this kind of faithfulness and resiliency the church will need for mission in post-christendom – I’m not entirely certain I would be saying this if it wasn’t for my own experience of struggle – it seems we only learn cruciformity through suffering)…
*There’s a lot more but I’ll stop there.
I am also reminded that during this season of Advent and Christmas how we as Christians are to mark our time by the narrative of our liberating King Jesus. If we do mark our time this way we are reminded of how out of step we as a people of the King are (or ought to be at least) with the rest of the world since according to the liturgical calendar the Christian new year was the first Sunday of Advent. Now, its ok if you need tonight as an excuse to set off fireworks or to a get kiss from your spouse :-), but the question before us is this: Will we be a people defined by the calendar Caesar sets for us or will we be a people who mark our time by the narrative of Jesus our liberating King?
My prayer as I move through the seasons of this liturgical year: Father, may the seeds of faithfulness sown in the year(s) past produce gospel resiliency and fruit in the hours, days, weeks, months, and years to come. In the name of your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.
Thanks for listening. Blessings to you in 2013.