Although it is by no means early in the night I should be going to bed. I have to leave the house in less than 8 hours so that I can get my wife to work and then get back for class, all the while fighting the wonderful traffic of the city I love. Its worth it though, to be writing right now, because I feel as though the last week has stretched me in ways I do not yet completely understand.
In the wake of my realization last week I decided that it was time for me to engage Lutheran theology in a way I haven’t before. I want to figure out who I am and what I believe because when my time at seminary is done, no matter what other academic pursuits I endeavor towards, I want to be a pastor. Even as I write those words some old demons of my past start poking their heads about reminding me of more than I care to remember.
For years the more I saw myself walking toward this calling I found myself running away from it. I have seen first hand the abuse of power that comes with such status. I know people who lord it over others, claiming somehow ordination made them holier than the one they stand beside. In all honesty I was always scared at what it might mean to be a pastor, especially one within the LCMS. I knew that being ordained had caveats, I had to subscribe to and confess the doctrine of the church contained in the Book of Concord. I had to pledge myself and bind myself to those documents and there was nothing that scared me more. Like I said, Ive seen the abuses. I know how people hide behind the doctrine. If I were to be honest, at times, Ive been one of them.
But this last week something dawned on me. It was actually in a Facebook message from a dear friend of mine. Now whether he realizes the impact of his words I will never know but it was nothing less than the support of him and others close to me that I came to realize something. I need to stop running. I need to stop being afraid. I actually need to take a look at things and give them the chance I never did for fear of turning out like those who abuse the position they are in. So I did, I am still, and I will continue to do so. Not because I am compelled to but because I have the opportunity to figure out if I actually believe something or not.
What started out as a journey into understanding the foundational elements of Lutheranism turned into a discovery of something much more revolutionary I had never thought I would find. But I found it, though I guess I should say its something I have known intellectually for years only now it has grabbed a hold of me. In fact, unlike I was a year or two or three or four ago I am proud of my theological heritage. I am proud of the basis and if I ever do get the opportunity to take those vows of ordination I know without a doubt I could confess anything I needed to.
So what is it? Whats so revolutionary? I’m fractured. I’m broken. Yet… I’m beautiful. And so are you.
Growing up Lutheran has afforded many things other than those which cause me to cringe. It has allowed me to interact with the theology of the man who started a reformation nearly 500 years ago. It has been hard for me to take him seriously at times because of those who claim to follow in his footsteps. At times I found myself in a similar position to that of Ghandi in that I like Luther but not Lutherans. And although I never really gave full credit or respect to him over the last few years, I cannot help but thank God for him. But it isn’t just him. Its everyone on down through the ages that has worked to teach others the truth that Christ’s death and resurrection has actually done something in my life.
In recent years the message has become so tainted I tended to ignore it. But as I sit here tonight I can’t ignore it anymore because of how freeing and empowering that message actually is. What message? That God loves me. That in Christ God reconciled the world to himself not counting mans sins against him. That God in his fatherly goodness gives me the righteousness that is not my own. That Christ lived a life and obtained a status before God that he has actually given to me. That because God has defined me as a person redeemed by the work of Christ it does not matter what the world says about me, it does not matter what other people say about me, and it does not matter that I cannot understand or forgive myself for things I have done in the past. God has declared me to be his own and that means that my life isn’t defined by this world, but by a God who loved me enough to restore the broken relationship without my help. By a God who promises to be there no matter the circumstance. By a God who cannot help but look at me with loving eyes, not because of anything I have or haven’t done, but because of His Son. By a God who loves not only me, but you too. Because everything that is true about this message in my life is true in yours too.
So often in life I find myself trying to fit into a mold. I try to be the best husband. The best student. The best son and brother and friend and advocate. But I continually fail to live up to the expectation of others and of myself. I piss people off. I make fun of them. I don’t make the right decisions. I ignore people who need my help. I do not actually take this forgiveness and new life I have found and use it to help others. But somehow thats ok. I don’t understand it. I cannot wrap my head around it. Nothing I do or don’t do can change the fact that God has made me his own and he has done the same for you.
The world is a broken place. Hatred. Injustice. Myopic understandings of how we treat others often not only precludes relationships between human beings but destroys the self worth and understanding people have of themselves. In my own eyes I know I am not good enough. I know I am more than f***ed up beyond all recognition. But the beauty of this fractured and broken life and world is that the world does not have the final say; it does not define who we actually are. God has something to say in the face of the voices in our head and in the world that remind us how fractured and broken we are. He tells us that loves us. He tells you that in his eyes you are perfect. Complete. His beautiful creation. No matter who you are. No matter what you’ve done. No matter what you will do tomorrow. No matter what you say about yourself or the world says about you, God has spoken about you. His word? You are beautiful.