Since I wrote my last blog, my life has changed in an unexpected and yet simultaneously pleasant and scary way. It was a change that was much desired, even longed for at times, but it was still a change no less, and I don’t tend to handle change very well. I never have. In truth, I fear change because, whether or not you see it coming, you never know what to expect. Change pulls you out of your comfort zone. However, change is also an opportunity for growth and renewal of faith in Christ Jesus. Because it is when you are deep in the storms of change and nothing seems certain that you are most in need of something that is certain and unfailing and never changes, and there is only one thing in this world that is guaranteed, that even death cannot destroy. The one thing that I speak of is the steadfast love of God and his promise to be with us always and forever. Oh, and the change that I alluded to previously. I got a boyfriend. Perhaps that doesn’t sound like such a big change. But when you have never been in a relationship and you are already living with the person who you are pursuing a relationship with, it changes everything.
In the weeks since I started my new relationship, I have discovered much about myself. In fact, I would say I have learned just as much if not more about myself as I have learned about him. I have also been reminded of something that I was previously aware of but forgot. Growth hurts. Even good growth. At least, it does for me. And I have been growing. Growing in faith, growing into an independent adult, and growing closer to another person. As I waded into the mist of so much change, I found myself grasping for something familiar. That something familiar turned out to be my faith in God and his love.
I recently gave a sermon at Saint Francis Episcopal Church at their noon day Ash Wednesday service. It was my first ever sermon. And I was nervous. As the gospel was read, I barely listened, not that I needed to since I was quite familiar with the reading in question after having read it multiple times in preparation for my sermon. Just before I made my way to the pulpit, I prayed for God’s peace and I remembered the words of Deacon Sonya who had helped me prepare for my sermon. She had told me that when I gave my sermon I needed to speak as one with authority because God had given me authority to speak on his behalf when he gave me insight into his word through the power of the Holy Spirit. With these prayers on my heart, I stepped up to the pulpit and delivered my sermon.
That day God delivered on his promise to grant me peace for I was at relative peace while giving my sermon and many who complimented me afterwards noted how calm I appeared. I recently came across Ephesians 3:19 in which the love of Christ is described as a “love that surpasses all knowledge” and that struck me. How can I trust God on his promise to grant me the “peace that passes understanding” but I don’t always believe that he loves me with a “love that surpasses all knowledge”? Even though my sermon had been written for the people of Saint Francis, the words I spoke were as much for me as for them. That day, I spoke of how the only treasure worth pursuing is that of God’s steadfast love because it is the only thing that does not fade and does not die. And I needed to hear that message just as much as the next person as I waded into the midst of change seeking something familiar and sure. However, as a forgetful human, I sometimes forget this truth and need to be reminded of it in more than one way. The sermon was one such reminder, my boyfriend is another.
I recently read an excerpt from Gene Robinson’s book “In the Eye of the Storm” in which he says that love between humans – whether that love be platonic or romantic – reflects the love of God. That is, the sensation we feel when we love and are loved is but a small dose of how God feels about us. Based on my experience, I would have to say that I mostly agree. More so now than ever before now that I have had a glimpse into the sensations and emotions that accompany love not that not platonic. However, the difference between God’s love and the love we experience on earth is that God’s love is perfect because God is perfect. God’s love does not waver, and it does not change based on actions. It is unconditional. But that is not always the case when it comes to the love we experience on earth between humans. And that is where grace enters the picture. Grace and patience.
Because humans are not perfect, we make mistakes and we get on each other’s nerves. Moreover, it is the ones we love most that tend to get on our nerves the most. And let me tell you when you are living in an intentional community, there is plenty of opportunity for people to get on each other’s nerves – whether it be because someone left their clothes in the dryer or didn’t wash their dishes or is playing music loudly at night. The list is of possible ways to get on another’s nerves is endless. However, as people of faith, we can choose to show grace and patience and self-control in such situations instead of anger and frustration. Now, that doesn’t mean we should necessarily do nothing about the situation. If someone is constantly not washing their dishes, then call that person out. However, do so in a manner that is appropriate to the situation at hand and not out of hatred. I have come to believe that grace and patience are essential to an intentional community, and due to more recent life developments, I would also say that grace and patience are essential to relationships as well.
In my recent practicing of grace and patience, or I should say, what little success I have had in practicing grace and patience, I have gained a new appreciation for the grace of God because it is hard work. Relationships are hard work. But there is also great reward at times, just as there is great reward in surrendering to the love of God. Moreover, just as relationships are not always easy, having faith is not always easy because it is choosing to believe in something we can’t see. However, God never said life was supposed to be easy. Because where would be the fun in that?
St. Francis Episcopal Church