It rained today. For the first time since I moved here a week and a half ago, the heavy clouds finally gathered enough moisture to produce a long, steady shower.
On the ground level of this three story house [read: mansion—I’d love to tell you more about this rad living situation if you’re curious!], the tapping of tiny droplets on the roof is too distant to be heard. It must have been raining for some time when I finally looked out the window and realized.
The rain surprised me. Funny enough, the feeling of surprise itself also surprised me. I spent the summer on the coast, where rain was at least a weekly occurrence. It’s not like I haven’t seen plenty of rain in recent months.
As often happens, my brain overruled my heart in the midst of that unexpected, double-layered surprise. I dragged a chair outside and planted it in the middle of my front porch. It was the perfect location to begin to disassemble my surprise and put it back together again once I’d figured out all the pieces and parts of it.
For those of you who don’t know me well, I am beginning to embark on the journey that is seminary. I moved across the country for this journey, which has been a scary and rewarding process all at the same time.
After a summer spent working at a wonderful church, I’ve had a couple of weeks of down time. If you have ever worked in ministry, you know that real, authentic, I-am-not-needed-for-anything down time can be a really beautiful thing.
On the front end of this little break, I embraced the unstructured time with open arms. I was certain this would be a perfect way to chill out before the stress of the new semester barged into my life full force.
The first few days were truly wonderful, full of sleep and rest. Soon after though, I was no longer tired and I realized I craved human interaction. It has been so long since I have been truly alone that I found myself staggering in the emptiness. I orchestrated my schedule so as to encounter at least one other human every day.
This time alone has not been easy. The extroverted part of me would surround myself with people all of the time if it had its way. However, I have learned that, as uncomfortable as it is, solitude is necessary. Not only is it a sort of spiritual discipline, solitude also acts as a mirror. In the past week and a half, it seems like I have done enough self-examination to last a lifetime.
If sitting outside in a rainstorm pointedly investigating the full extent of an unexpected feeling seems strange, it probably is. Don’t worry; it’s not you, it’s me. However, in the lonely moments of ministry, this sort of reflection has become a practice which keeps me sane. I find myself needing moments of quiet contemplation like that more and more, whether I really enjoy them or not.
My world is about to explode with everything that is not solitude. In a couple of days, I will again be surrounded by people for the vast majority of each day. The noise of the words of other people (professors, authors, friends, etc.) will again take precedence over my own. Moments of silence will be few and far between, and sometimes only when I force them to happen. This is the reality of seminary. Really, this is the reality of our busy world.
This short period of time has taught me so much. I’ve realized, for example, that cooking for just one person is pretty challenging. I’ve also discovered that there is a rather dominant need within myself to be around other people. Those are indeed valuable lessons, especially considering this time of solitude has been incredibly brief.
Today, though, I realized that solitude’s most important lesson for me has been of a theological nature. After carefully dissecting the surprise (that took me by surprise), I figured it out. I did not expect the rain because I have not seen it here before. In the short week and half I have spent in this new place, my brain has not even considered what it might look like in the rain. That may sound incredibly simple, but in that moment it was profound.
I wonder how often we miss the glory of God—the beauty of creation, the work of the Kingdom, the power and presence of the Holy Spirit—because we haven’t seen it here before. How often do we miss that which God intends for us to see because we aren’t even looking?
I have toyed for awhile with the idea of starting a blog. In the middle of this technological era, I didn’t want to be one more quixotic (or worse, cynical) millennial adding my thoughts to an already crowded space. Hesitancy may yet be the wise decision, but here I am, heart in hand.
Please forgive the largely self-serving nature of this space. I will primarily use it as a sort of open journal, in which I will record my theological thoughts with the best kind of regularity I can attempt. As a relatively unaccomplished and very intimidated student of theology, my theological brain is still developing. Every now and again, I find myself dusting cobwebs out of corners of my mind I didn’t even know existed.
Perhaps as a result of this newness, my theology tends to be more practical than ethereal, more on the ground than in the clouds. Relationship is the conduit through which I most often and clearly experience God, and so my thoughts about God are inherently and unavoidably human. I offer an apology if it is necessary, but it seems to me that the best way to know and to love God is to know and to love those who are made in God’s image.
At the very best, my humble hope is that some of these thoughts might help you move closer to this God in whose image we are made. If somehow these words invite you along on this journey with me, I would be delighted for you to join me. I much prefer your company to solitude, anyway.
Grace and peace,