I suppose technically the ink on my ordination certificate has dried, although I’m not sure if the episcopal wax seal has been applied yet (that’s a whole other story). Even with all that complexity, I am still a very new priest. Actually, I’m probably as new as you can get. If my clock is right, I have been a priest for all of 89 hours (give or take a few). The past 89 (or so) hours have been a complete whirlwind of sorts, and I’ve only had a few moments of solitude to actually take it all in.
But that’s just it. I can’t take it all in. The mystery of what happened is just too big to fully grasp. In many ways I feel like Moses on the top of the sacred mountain. To fully grasp God’s glory would most certainly be too much to take in. What Friday was was a glimpse of “glory divine,” a snapshot of what God is doing, not just in my life, but in the life of the Church and the world. “Things that were cast doing are being raised up,” and God is raising them indeed.
Friday marked a turning point in my life. It marks the day when my life was changed, when my identity was fundamentally altered, when I was formally called out and set apart for divine use. It marks the day when my journey towards this point came to a dramatic and beautiful end. But as the great Benedictine adage goes, “always we begin again.” As an old (and by old I mean before 2000… sorry, I’m still young enough that pre-Y2K seems like half a lifetime ago) song asserts “Every beginning is some other beginning’s end…” Our lives are marked by such moments and it helps as we pass through these transitional moments to take a moment to acknowledge the journey with all it’s beautiful ugliness, painful happiness, and illumined darkness. On Friday I felt all of that: the rejections, the hurts, the denials, the struggles, the sorrows, the confusion, the uncertainties… and God’s presence every single step of the way. It was ugly, but my God, it was so very beautiful.
A dear brother-priest friend told me after my ordination to the Sacred Order of Priests “you had the heart of the priest before you walked down the aisle and was made priest.” I can’t speak for all priests, but I believe the heart that he was referring to was formed in the crucible of pain and hurt and forged in the refiner’s fire of process and journey. The heart of the priest is a heart that has been broken and crushed, and it is a heart that has been and is being healed by God’s grace. It is a broken heart that can connect with the brokenness of the world with a first-hand witness that healing, not brokenness, is our destiny and our birthright. It is a 2 Corinthians 4 heart. That beautiful exposition where Paul tells the Corinthian church,
But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
So I begin again. The journey has been rough and rugged, my heart has been broken, my faith has been tested. AND, God has been present, I am healed and am being healed, and my faith has been transformed. With that, I believe I’ll run on to see what the end will be.
Keep the faith, and make it colorful!