When we think of the times in our lives when major changes have occurred we recognize that there tends to be a very disorienting feeling that happens. Often the emotions are mixed and sometimes, we do not like the changes at all and want to go back to the time before the change even happened, fighting our new reality. I remember that feeling when I graduated from seminary. Since I was still finishing up my requirements for ordination I was in what I called Presbyterian Limbo. Still living on campus finishing my chaplaincy program, I began to wonder why I had been so quick to graduate, even to the point of wanting to hand back my diploma and do another year. I realized that as frustrating as it was, my continuous 20 years (not including preschool) of schooling were over and now I would have to learn how to live, plus how to be a pastor!
As I look back at that time the interesting thing was that throughout my schooling I had to deal with incredibly difficult things. I had to find ways to overcome my learning disabilities, I had to learn and struggle through medical issues, and making it all the more difficult I had to deal with what everyone else did, just growing up. But through all of those changes and growth, I had a community around me to hold my hand, walk with me and guide me. But now, for the first time in my life I no longer had that, and it was scary!
Before leaving campus, as I was finishing up my statement of faith for the ordination process, I told the professor I was working with about my fear. He read me this passage; looking back it was probably because it had just been in the lectionary. Regardless, his point was that the world and ministry was not going to be easy. In fact, it was going to be incredibly hard, but God had called me and I had to learn to trust God and roll with whatever came my way. It was good advice!
The reality of life as a Christian is that the acceptance of Christ and the Christ-life is not a transition from a difficult life to the perfect one. Rather, it is a transition from a difficult life to an even more difficult one with a few very important exceptions. The most important being found in 1 Peter 13 and 14: “But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.”
This past Sunday, in the Gathering service, we heard how one person views brokenness as a blessing. This was profound in many ways, but is very grounded in our understanding of the Christian Life. For it is in our brokenness where we recognize our solidarity with Christ. Moreover, we know that we are living our lives for something much more than ourselves.
The saddest thing that I think about when I look back on that 20 years is how the pain and suffering I went through was lessened so much by the people that were around me, giving me hugs, pep talks, love, and so much more. I take that as a witness and an example of how God lessens my suffering today, especially when I stop and look around at all the people God continues to put in my path to lessen my burden.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen