I wrote awhile ago about being in a relationship with Jesus: It’s getting serious, I quipped. This declaration has been met in different ways by different people, as one might imagine. My pastor friends smile and nod, understanding the ways in which commitment to ministry ebbs and flows. Sometimes it is done with incredible passion and sense of purpose; other times it is done out of muscle memory and sense of duty. Being in a relationship with Jesus is great, but I understand that he sees other people. He’s not monogamous. Our is very much an open relationship. Sometimes I find myself alone in the flat, drinking wine and eating ice cream, belting out “All By Myself.” Yes, that’s right. When I’m not with Jesus I’m Bridget Jones. Deal with it.
But all this to say that there are times when God seems really far away. There are times when I ask myself what the hell I’ve done? Do I fully understand that I have organized my life around something that ultimately may not be true; that I have made decisions impacting my financial life–and, therefore, the financial life of my wife–and continue to accrue education debt even though I know the church I serve will not be in the financial position to support me full time, perhaps ever? I have purposefully pursued a terminal degree that is not accepted as an adequate credential from certain institutions of higher learning, including the one at which I have taught for nearly a decade. (I trust that soon D.Min. degrees (especially with the concentration I am pursuing) will have universal appreciation, but that may be slow in coming for Catholic universities.) I have made changes to the way I live my life, shifted the sense of responsibility I have for others, and dedicated myself to a continued commitment to follow Jesus Christ. It’s a BFD.
And it is for a multitude of reasons. But one is on my mind: it can be so dangerous when someone becomes really religious. I think about the way that I was raised–with really no attention paid to the spiritual life, but great attention paid to the intellectual one–and I want to be certain that I remain an open-minded, compassionate person who is fully committed to relationships with people without preconditions. In the end, that’s ridiculous. We all have preconditions: we want to be safe and respected, and when those preconditions are broken we make decisions about whether we want to continue that relationship. What I’m talking about is never wanting to be at the place where I begin to judge someone else’s spiritual beliefs, or will not engage in a relationship with someone because their beliefs do not comport with mine. Again, examples could be offered in which someone’s beliefs would cause me to not be in relationship with them (they believe God calls them to molest children), but I am speaking about having a religious belief that makes me think I am better than others. I never want to tread upon that territory. So when I say I’m on fire for Jesus, I get why some people would shrink away and have some serious questions and concerns. I welcome those questions and affirm those concerns.
But for me it is this: I firmly believe that God has led me to this time and this place to witness for Christ. I’ll use my words in bible study, sermons, and writings; but the rest of the time, I want my actions to represent my faith. I have no desire to proselyte and convert, but I do want to model the behavior of Jesus, to love as radically as God loves, and to be a servant for my wider community such that anyone, regardless of faith tradition or condition in life, will feel comfortable coming to me or allowing me to come to them. I want to pull down as many barriers as I can in my personal life and within the society that I inhabit, barriers that keep me out of significant relationships with others. That, to me, is the call on my heart.
I guess I’m just a YS hippy after all.