Friday, April 8, 2016

Evening Walks

For the past month or so, I’ve taken up the practice of going for an evening walk. I head out my door any time after 10:30pm, and I go for one or two trips around the little suburban neighborhood across the street. I live in a fairly safe and secure town, and all the streets are well lit by either street lamps or outdoor lights owned by the homeowners. Even when it’s cold, windy, rainy, or snowy, I make it a point to get out and walk. I’m usually only out for fifteen to thirty minutes (depending upon how many laps I do through the community), but it has become a Holy practice for me.

Sabbath has been a difficult undertaking in seminary. I always felt pulled in so many different directions that taking time to do something for myself seemed selfish; I needed to finish that one paper or get caught up on that reading! But this time each evening has helped to me to refocus upon what’s important, and it helps me to unwind after long and busy days. I think my connection to God has suffered while I’ve been in seminary, it became harder at times to hear God above the din of the academia. I sometimes fear that I sacrificed too much in the name of academic success and as a result potentially missed out on some transformative community events which would have allowed me to commune with God more frequently. I can’t do anything now to change what I’ve done, but I can work on being better for the future. Ministry has many long and demanding days, and I will need to be intentional about carving time out for myself. So, I walk. Even when I feel tired and really don’t want to. Even when I still have too much academic work to complete. Even when it means I have to leave a group gathering a bit early. I walk.

As I walk I sometimes sing, and I use the time to pray. I talk to God, and I listen for her response. I’ve had a particularly trying several months (I referenced this in my last blog post, 10 letters), and I’m working on a rebuilding phase for myself. It’s slow, and painstakingly difficult at times, and I will be a decidedly different person than I was before I had this experience. And as I reflect on these past few months of trial, I believe that God has been with me the entire way, even when I couldn’t feel God. I think God comes to us in the faces of those we love, in the voice on the other end of the phone asking, “How are you today?”

When I walk and talk with God, I contemplate the pieces of my life which have made me who I am, the pieces which have brought me to this place. Sometimes I get angry and have no reasonable place to apply blame, so I get angry with God (because God can handle it when we get angry, and I think it’s better to be authentic in emotion and express anger with God than it is to allow that anger to fester inwardly and cause you to yell and scream at your housemate or tell that annoying person at work to get lost), and when I’m done I know God is still with me and loves me.

I recently had a talk with someone about forgiveness and how I wanted to one day forgive someone who had done something harmful to me. As we pressed in conversation, I admitted that I didn’t know if I would ever be able to truly forgive that person, but I never wanted to give up trying. I’m not ready yet to forgive in this instance, but every day I think about that person and I attach the declaration, “Child of God,” to the end of their name. My hope is that as much as I recognize from a theological level that they are a child of God, I need to get to the point at my emotional level where I see they are indeed a Child of God. It’s not an easy task. But I continue trying. Because it is through trying that we experience growth and change.

Speaking of, my life is about to change again. I started this blog in preparation for commencing my seminary education. I moved from Upstate New York to Boston, MA never having lived more than an hour away from family. I remember being so homesick those first weeks that it was excruciating. But Boston eventually became home. It has left an indelible mark upon my heart, and I will forever look to these years as ones in which I did the most growing into my own that I ever have. As the weeks and days draw closer to the end (three weeks of regular classes left, three weeks of CPE placement left, five weeks until graduation), it is startling to me how much I’ve experienced which I wasn’t able to chronicle here. Part of that is due to my very inconsistent ability to write regularly, and yet it is also due to trying to live in the moment. I tried to be present in ways which didn’t allow me to be buried in my phone instead of interacting with those around me. Seminary is an amazing journey, and I am experiencing the bitter-sweet emotions that come with it ending. As I prepare to step from one journey, I know that I embark upon another exciting phase in my life. The journey isn’t ending, it’s just taking on a different shape.

As I walk with God on these evenings, I share my concerns for the future, my joys for the present, and my pains of the past. People can debate the power and works of prayer all they want, but that I take the time to share something with the cosmos, that I can share something of myself with something bigger than we can comprehend, is important. I know that I am not on this journey or any journey alone.

New and exciting things await me. I can’t wait to see where God calls me to next.

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