A spiritual purge. An utter cleanse of all the crud. A renewal. A new beginning. A new man. Born again, but born again with entirely new systems of approaching reality, negotiating social situations and defending moral/truth views.
All of the old grudges gone. Being as sharp as a serpent for those who would take advantage of me, but as innocent as a dove in how I respond to their intentions. Knowing clearly when someone has good/bad/neutral intentions at heart.
Freedom from fear of death and punishment in the afterlife. A mad desire to know all that is good about God, the angels, Jesus, the Spirit, the saints, and that can be anything that is spiritual and good. No fear of good or evil, but merely a re-focusing, re-alignment, constant re-orientation to the moral north. Evil is easily detected and avoided. Things that are meant to be purged, but aren’t necessarily good or evil are purged.
Love, yes, for sure, but only when it is without sentimental baggage, self-interest baggage, human-defined (especially of the cultural here and now) baggage.
Don’t let go of Jesus, but do let go of beating up on yourself and others when you and they aren’t keeping close to Jesus. Those who would worship Allah, Buddah, Khna, animal spirits, etc. can be met and loved on commong ground without any sense of a crusade. Beware of anyone who is carrying around a crusade with them–even, and perhaps especially, atheists. Crusaders might seem harmless enough–they just want to have a conversation–but their intentions can be seen clearly in good time. Conversion happens on an individual level, due to great shifts in one’s perspective of reality, and it is between the individual and God. True conversion doesn’t take place most of the time after someone has been proselytized, if ever. Those who are highly suspicious and averse to proselytization are often carrying around their own agendas and crusades.
The New York Dream is what it is. It doesn’t cease. It lives on in you, and you should be open to any particular opportunities that may come up while in school to go back to NYC, even to live, study and work there. Stop trying to purge it and resign yourself to life in Texas, only to find the NY Dream persisting and you being unhappy, especially on those Sunday mornings when nostalgia and what could have been hit you hard.
Assume you are not being understood when you speak. Assume that you do not speak with great clarity, both in articulating concepts and enunciating words. Assume that people think you are mumbling. Assume that you are the one scowling, and have set off the adverse chain of sharpening countenances poorly. Assume that surprises are still to come, both good and bad, but especially good.
Accept that God might have many good things in store for you that align with your own dreams. Your dreams may not be so far off from God’s will, after all. Begin to see God as a partner and a friend, instead of an angry, distant father who never notices when you do something good and always pounces on you when you do something bad. God the Father is not your earthly father. If you continue to go through life expecting the worst while only hoping for the best, then the worst will continue to happen as much as the best.
Be new like a new morning in summer before everything gets too hot. Be calm, and listen. Be loving, be attentive, be happy and grateful for what is good. Be kind to yourself, stop beating up on yourself. Stop beating up on others. The world of everyone coming at you with malicious intentions is mostly in your head and magnified by an unwillingness to create a new world.
Know that you were created and formed as you are for a reason. Once you can truly put aside anything about you that might still smack of a desire to please others, you can discover yourself in your honest glory. You can love yourself, then love others as you love yourself. You can’t live out this commandment if you don’t know who you are and you still hate yourself.
Always be open and ready to accept something unexpected. You never know when you will suddenly meet people who are ready to help make your dreams happen. Be open to gracious people who do not want or need to be paid back penny for penny. Be, of course, the gracious person who doesn’t need to be paid back as much as you can.
This business of trying your damnedest to be and become your genuine self while remaining open to things that could change you in a good way–it is tricky and you will need to continually re-examine yourself and where you are going. But, you can’t become overly analytical in moments of sublimity, and you must remain steadfast and grounded in moments of the terrible and the mundane.
Don’t approach this with a foolish notion that you know exactly how to make it work. You might come up with a strategy that appears to be keeping you sane, but it might not be the best strategy or even a fair one. Becoming someone much better than who you have been is a nice goal, but if it is too narrowly defined, you will lose your sanity always kicking against a universe that is trying to pull you this way and that. If it is too vaguely defined, you will be pulled this way and that by the universe without ever reaching your goal.
Start with the basics. You are not the nicest person anyone has ever met. Assume that you are scowling and need to smile more. Assume that you haven’t done enough to engage someone, and try to engage them more in conversation that isn’t trivial. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t think of anything to say, that just makes everything worse–you end up making conversation for its own sake, and confusing the other person–or, they start to like something about you that isn’t really you.
You are not interested in having sex with other people, but women (and some men) are going to assume that by default you secretly want to sleep with them if you chat with them in any way that isn’t trivial, regardless of the ring on your finger. Remind yourself that you are a pastor-in-training, and conduct yourself as such. This should be a go-to for any social situation, especially the ones where people piss you off.
Assume that you are not doing enough to make friends, and ask God for suggestions on how to find the right thing to say to connect with more people in an honest, wholesome way. You must assume that you haven’t done enough up to this point in your life, but you should never give up in believing that things will change. Things can and they will change. You will make plenty of friends, some close, some not as much. You will build a network of relationships. The Lord will help steer you in the right direction. Count on it. Thank Him for it.
Make sure that you remember at all times that the world is not entirely your random collection of so-called friends on Facebook. Likewise, the world won’t just be the people you befriend at seminary. The world won’t just be people who agree with you politically and religously, and the world will become people who live outside of your immediate physical area. If you encounter a person in a news story or on a website or blog that you’d like to reach out to for an honest, wholesome reason, then ask God for what to say to do it.
Don’t deny the great sadness, but don’t wallow in it, either. Don’t deny yourself joy and euphoria, but don’t lose yourself in it, either. Don’t deny yourself when you are mad at somebody, but give your anger over to God and pray furiously for Him to give you patience and guidance to resolve your anger.
The mundane, the accedia, the boredom, the noonday demon, etc.–that’s what always takes you by surprise. Being full of words to write down, things to do, people to contact–that may seem like a lot of stressful hurdles and mountains. But, the mundane, the time of day when you need to be watching your son and it is too hot outside to do anything, or you need to be washing dishes or some other chore–such a time is when you really start to fall apart and doubt such a thing as a path to be on, a way of being and becoming someone greater than who you presently are. The mundane is death valley, a place where time stops.
As such, you can almost always be sure to have your prayers ready to go for when you are in a difficult situation that has you terrified or angry or confused, but prayer never seems quite enough when you are faced with the mundane. The mundane is where you will finally find God in His most authentic form. Reality unvarnished with hopes and dreams of future trips to museums and cities. Reality naked and plain without all of the plans and activities of the day. Reality that is asking you to simply get done the things you need to get done. Reality that says maybe you should stop seeing a path to God as some fairy tale and start seeing it as the gift of extra time that it really is. Most people throughout history have not been given a chance to start things over at 40–40 is when they were getting ready to die.
You are incredibly impatient. You are impatient for L to grow up a little bit so he is talking and potty-trained. You are impatient to be out in the world at a dream church preaching as an associate pastor and learning the ropes to one day be a senior pastor. You are impatient for that time and place when you live in the great little community with your family and everyone knows you and you do Little League and Scouts with L, and you don’t feel like an outsider. You are impatient to be traveling someplace grand again. You are impatient for more profound insights to come your way, and for you yourself to change and lose all of the things about yourself that you hate. You are impatient to be out of Waco and down in Austin back in school. You are impatient to see this or that happen, because you have the false notion that there will be the perfect moment in time that stands still while you walk a thousand beaches and city streets around the world with your wife and kids or just your wife after retiring.
Remember that you will look back twenty years from now wistfully on all of the fun times you had with L and possibly child #2, and you will have some remorse that the times are gone, and your kids are adults or almost adults, off to live out their own lives. You will be sad that your second career is now mostly over, and that soon you will be starting to consider retirement and how you will stay afloat financially for the rest of your life. You will be full of many aches, pains, ailments that you never had in your forties, and you will not find the post-retirement travels nearly as rewarding as you’d hoped they would be, what with no kids along to share the experiences and your senses and movements greatly diminished. Perhaps L will grow apart from you–maybe not in any openly hostile way, but in a way that makes the two of you not have much to say to each other when you do see him.
There is so much that you will lose and wish you could get back, just because life is that way, and impatience to get on to the next thing is only going to make the loss that much worse. Be patient. Trust in God. Put your faith in Jesus. Call upon the Holy Spirit to fill you with insight and love, and to push out the bad stuff that needs purging. Pray for others. Ask others to pray for you. Stay grounded in your faith of choice, but remain open to the universe that functions in ways no mortal can even imagine.