It’s exactly eleven days since I was ordained as a deacon in the service of The Church of the Advent in Atlanta, GA, under the Bishop of the Diocese of the South, within the Province of the Anglican Church in North America, a part of the global Anglican Communion. Today I spoke (as if into the Void, only partly as a prayer) something to the effect of, “If angels who stood in the very presence of God could rebel, how then am I, who cannot see God with my eyes, supposed to faithfully walk the path of trust and submission without being overthrown by the multitude of distractions, temptations, passions, and hindrances I’ll undoubtedly encounter? How is it reasonable to expect me to carry on tirelessly the endless process of becoming divine [that is, partaking of the divine nature — 2 Peter 1:3-8] when the very opposite of that feels so much more natural. Why was I not created differently, so that becoming divine felt natural? Why was everything not created differently so that sin never occurred? And if that’s to be the reality in the New Creation when people are to experience God’s presence directly, then, again, how could angels attending the throne of God rebel?”
It’s been a busy month. It’s been a busy season in general. This whole year -no, two and a half years- has been hectic/stressful. I keep setting up milestones and saying, “When I reach that, things’ll be better.” It’s not even that things have been bad. I’ve planted a church, built a house, been ordained…
I’ve learned now that you can do all that and never feel on top of any of it. Underneath the current of achievements, markers, and milestones, you can still begin your mornings neglecting to say your prayers. You can smile, laugh, chat, and play while your heart sulks. You can reassure others in their faith while feeling a nagging doubt. You can be surrounded by good friends and feel profound loneliness. You can counsel wisdom and practice folly, desire truth and ingest lies, want to do good and do bad. You’ll begin to wonder how frequently you can have a double mind before you become a double-minded man, or in general at what point your actions become you. You’ll wake up eleven days after your ordination and feel a fatigue, a sudden desire to retreat, to hibernate, until the thick fog manifesting all at once the omnipresent, palpable reality of all the stuff in your life overwhelming you hopefully blows away and dissipates. But you can’t. You get up and go to work and fling gripes out into the Void.
But then you listen for a response. Because you’re a Christian. You know there’– I know there’s no void. I know the process of partaking of the divine nature -the process Peter describes in 2 Pt 1:3,4- is hard because I fail to do the hard work of cultivating the virtues in verses 5-7. I’m lazy and selfish. I read that passage and know it’s a simple cause/effect formula, but distract myself from the honest work of attaining those qualities by inventing a fiction wherein I should naturally have them, and then complain that’s not the reality. I might as well complain that I wasn’t born as tall, fit, and educated as I would ever be. I know a lot of basic principles that, though I’ll challenge them from time to time, will always stand, stalwart and secure. Of these, the most reliably comforting (and the most fundamental) are God is real and God is good. I affirm these precisely because God comforts me with them. Then, when I ask, he tenderly forgives and restores me from my grievous sins and rebellion, and strengthens me when that thick fog of despair envelopes me. Thanks be to God.