What a decade it has been! Who knew as George W. Bush campaigned for a second term that 2008 would see Americans elect their first black president? Who could have predicted that six years after giving us one of the greatest TV pilots of all time, Lost would conclude with one of the worst finales of all time? (Though, maybe not the worst … I’m looking at you How I Met Your Mother).
As I compared notes with friends at my 10-year college reunion last May, the past decade for me has been impressively stable. I married Leeman shortly after college, and we’ve built a happy family life together. A close friend entered ministry in the Episcopal church and has already served in two different dioceses (neither the diocese in which she was ordained). In contrast, even my transition from the Centre for Medieval Studies to seminary at Wycliffe College kept me within the parameters of the University of Toronto. Grace Church is not too much farther afield.
On a personal level, however, my life has changed in profound ways that I could never have predicted. Despite having attended an Episcopal church in undergrad, I was still reluctant to identify myself as an Anglican. I would have laughed if someone told me I would be ordained as a deacon seven years later. My ambition was single-mindedly focused on pursuing an academic career.
I say all that not to rehash my life story of how I found myself in the ministry. But because I do find the rather abrupt turn my life took a few years back to provide a positive reflection for our attitude towards change – particularly change in the church.
When I came to Toronto, I was doing exactly what I had always wanted to do—establishing a foundation for a life of teaching and scholarship. A few short years later, I found myself confronted with the realization that doing what I always wanted to do actually made me horribly unhappy. Perhaps more importantly, it also made me quite self-centered, as I focused first and foremost on my own research and academic performance. For the record, I have close friends—including Amanda’s godfather—whose academic careers are a true spiritual vocation through which they selflessly serve others. That calling was simply not mine.
In some ways, it was hard to let go of an image I always had for myself and accept the calling God had in mind for me. On the other hand, I am so much happier, fulfilled and, honestly, more giving than when I doing what I (thought I) wanted to be doing. I still find myself sometimes astounded at where I have ended up – at home enough in Ontario that I am applying for Canadian citizenship, and a priest in the Anglican Church of Canada no less! On the other hand, I know without a doubt I am where God always intended for me to be.
The point is: change is hard. Transformation is hard. Becoming the people God wants us to be is a tough calling. It is hard for us as individuals in a cultural context that is repeatedly encouraging us to realize our own dreams. And it is hard for us in the church, situated as we are in a society that seems to be in a constant state of flux.
Beyond simply saying “change is good,” it might be more accurate to say that change is simply inevitable. God is going to work in our lives and in our church in wild and unpredictable ways. And the funny thing is – God usually knows better than we do what we most need. If we have the courage to follow, we will find a life that is more than anything we can ask or imagine.
That said, I will never understand the appeal of Swiss Chalet. Canada, you are just delightfully weird sometimes.