I am still slightly off the ground but I’m able to walk tall, and can accomplish simple tasks. There is still some emotional and spiritual lability that everyone I talk to says is to be expected. I am still occasionally bursting into laughter and, tears, song, and find myself both with excess energy and deep fatigue in close proximity.
When I was made a deacon I had a sense that a room in my house had been professionally cleaned: where there had been an accumulation of old ideas and arguments about whether I should or shouldn’t get ordained, get closer to or farther from the church; all that had been swept away and there was a simple icon in the middle of a new room that said “Deacon.”
At the deanery meeting last week during our check-in time I said that I felt like one wall of my house had been taken away and hand there were professional workers laying new foundations. When I explored that image later it let like it was a house in the neighborhood where I lived as a child. I feel like there is a new structure as well as a great grace building in my old neighborhood, and I feel youthful delight in seeing what will take place.
I have wanted to be a priest since I was almost 23. So over 40 years with the same dream or conversation or argument or recurrent thread going on. I used to joke that it was a kind of spiritual herpes, occasional outbursts at inconvenient times. And now that conversation is closed and a new one begins. Again there is a feeling of spaciousness and freedom as well as a tentative quality of quiet questioning in this new beginning.
What kind of a priest am I called to be? I go back and over the 40 years of conversation, consider books and articles I’ve read in the last few months and lively talks with new and old friends and is still leaves me with this wide question. How do I love God and my neighbor and myself as a minister of the Word and Sacraments in this time and place?
This sounds seriously high-minded but is actually quite basic, pointing to specific questions: do I wear a black shirt, do I clean up my language, can I be as open as I have been in the past with my opinions? In what way am I a servant or savant? How am I a prophet or a poet as a priest? How does this jibe with my rampant codependency, my need to be needed, my fragile and occasionally overblown ego, my calorie count? What does my new rule of life need to account for?
Paradoxically, one of the things I know for sure is that I shouldn’t think about it too much. I’m talking this out this morning (with my major-cool voice recognition software) to share it with the online community, old and new friends who share the journey, but most of this morning I’ve been rambling around the house and garden cleaning up, wiping down, stretching a little as I go, bringing a little order to a little chaos -- and as I do that ideas and feelings and old memories and new projections come into focus and fly away again. And all the while I get things done.
So after documenting my sobriety, tenacity, methodical nature and mature sensibility (before I go too far) let me note that I keep being surprised by how happy I am to be a priest! Something in me keeps breaking into dance, singing scraps of songs from old musicals, feeling very thankful.
Let me leave you with this: one person said of my first mass: it was “a tentative Eucharist, like a wedding night!” I’ll take that as a fair comment and an accurate one. I did feel shy and amazingly eager and ready, the absolute joy of being able to participate in that moment in that manner! I still do.
So now it is noon on a Saturday morning in Australia and I’m going to walk down the street and with a good book and get a good lunch somewhere. I wish you well.