The Best Day of My Life Yet!

Over the past few months, as I have been praying, meditating, talking with folks about ordination the phrase that God formulated in me, spiritually speaking is, to be ordained is to rest in the love of God and invite people to experience the love of Christ. This is the “why” that I have been looking for. This is the ax that will sharpen my spear. This is the anchor that will prevent me from being buffeted by the relentless waves of evanescent fascinations. This is what Keirkegaard talks about when he says, “purity of heart is to will one thing.” 

I feel like I almost had an ontological change today! Perhaps not as dramatic as a pupa becoming a butterfly but a change to(ward) a new Identity. An identity that I find profoundly freeing.  Let me un-dramatize things a bit. Today, the Session of First Presbyterian Church heard my vision/call and voted unanimously (I am told) to recommend to be ordained as a Pastor under ECO. I still need to go through a long process with ECO to be ordained, but this vote of confidence gets the process started. I have a long road towards becoming ordained. I do not want to count the chicken before the eggs hatch. However, I want to take this special moment in my life and stake stock of the adventure that the good Lord has been taking me on.

3 years ago, in the Fall of 2014, after working for 10 years in Software development, mostly project management, I quit my job and went full time to the seminary following my call into a life of ministry of loving God and neighbor. It was a step out of safety into a new adventure. I did not know how the adventure was doing to turn out. By the grace of God, I graduated with a M.Div. magna cum laude, but the journey was not quite complete then. I still was not sure what kind of twists and turns the adventure is going to take. 

An important step in the adventure is the return back to the full time work life. After spending months in prayerful discernment, I finally landed at First Presbyterian Church (FPC) as a Church Planting Pioneer. Thanks be to God! 

 

Today is the best day of my life because, today, I was shepherded into the first steps of the final leg of the journey – to be ordained a reverend! It happened at the Session of the Pastors and Ruling Elders of meeting at FPC. The session spent a few minutes hearing my call to ministry and then voted to place me “under care” in order to be ordained through ECO. 

Question: Why does this event make today the best day of my life yet?

To appreciate why the beginning of the journey to ordination is the best days of my life one has to first understand the problem of my life… the problem of my life is that on a given day when I wake up in the morning I think I will to become a writer… when I am sipping coffee at Starbucks, feeling the heart tug of some vague tune of Pink Floyd coming over the speakers, I think I could try my hand at music… (in fact I bought a key board that I haven’t touched in months!) then when I see Netflix on my wind down to go to bed, taking notes on what was great on a given scene, or, what went wrong, I think perhaps I should try my hand at the movie business, really!  

This vacillation is the typical millennial problem of not committing to anything while being intrigued by too many fascinations. A typical millennial life with too many interests is more like a broom that just cleans up after people who have cut their teeth doing something well. A spear that does not come down to a point has no target to hit. The problem with being swayed by the vagaries of my momentary enchantments is not that my interests are too widely spread out, but rather I do not quite have a “why” around which to galvanize my resolute pursuits.

Over the past few months, as I have been praying, meditating, talking with folks about ordination the phrase that God formulated in me, spiritually speaking is, to be ordained is to rest in the love of God and invite people to experience the love of Christ. This is the “why” that I have been looking for. This is the iron that will sharpen my spear. This is the anchor that will prevent me from being buffeted by the relentless waves of my evanescent fascinations. This is what Keirkegaard talks about when he says, “purity of heart is to will one thing.” Thus I am freed from the tyranny of too many traumatizing options to choose from.

This apprehension of the inner “why” will fuel my activities, whether it be writing about the love of God or listening to hurt-angry people or preaching Christ. There is a deep freedom in knowing the “why” towards which my activities need to be directed as against being cursed with the tyranny of choice, having to choose from a plethora of options that entices my fancy. 

Today is the best day of my life yet because I am beginning to see the new identity crack open from the cocoon. A meandering larva becomes a pupa stuck in a cocoon, dormant. Then only when it ontologically changes to a butterfly that it comes fully to itself, knowing the “why” of its being – to spread its wings out and fly! My time in the world of software was one of meandering through many different interesting terrains… my time at the seminary was like the pupa that was incubating by without much movement, at times frustrating. Now the cocoon has begun cracking up and I am slowly emerging, out spreading out my wings and realizing that the whole point of my life – everything that has happened, everything I have endured, everything that has enchanted me had one end – is to rest in the love of Christ and invite people into experiencing how much Christ loves them! This is what freedom in Christ looks like for me in this phase of my life.

No Freedom without Meaning

If there isn’t a big purpose that is captivating us, we will likely be lost in one of two realms. We would either be lost in a flurry of activity bouncing about from one whim to another or in the realm of inactivity callously slipping into a depression. Both of which makes man less human.

I was reading the book ‘Loves Me, Loves Me Not’ by Laura A. Smit in which she has a quote from Harry G. Frankfurt in his book ‘Reason of Love’ saying,
 

“the necessity with which love binds the will puts and end to the indecisiveness concerning what you care about”. 

Laura A. Smit goes on to comment that,

 

 

“real freedom then is not found in being autonomous selves but in having a worthy direction and purpose that we can embrace completely and whole heartedly without ambivalence”.

Reflecting on this… if there isn’t a big purpose that is captivating us, we will likely be lost in one of two realms. We would either be lost in a flurry of activity bouncing about from one whim to another or in the realm of inactivity callously slipping into a depression. Both of which makes man less human.

Purposeless distracting activity, as in watching cats videos on Youtube cannot captivate us. Indulging too much on it makes us but less human. Purposeless inactivity, as in being lazy to the point of getting depressed, leads to a dreariness that would ultimately make one less human.

On the other hand, some people find their bigger purpose in their family life, everything they do is guided by demands of family life. Some others find their bigger purpose in their careers. Some other find their bigger purpose in some altruistic motives, like solving world hunger or promoting greener energy resources.

In all this, ‘purposeful meaning’ that firmly binds us to a some BIG goal helps us to be truly human. To try to be untethered oneself from any semblance of meaningful purpose of the human enterprise is to make of oneself, ‘an empty bubble floating about in void’ (borrowing a phrase from Sartre).

Often, man, at least the bohemian one who values freedom, dreams of running away from any meaningful responsibility and be in a state of perpetual vacation. The irony is that if any man would truly achieve a state of responsibility-less vacation, he would find that he isn’t so much free as empty.

Flight – Acts of God!

 Through ‘acts of God’ facing disappointments, despondency and depression, if we will acknowledge the reality of our own depravity and then we will be set Free.  Unless know who we truly are without God we will not be ready to set free.

Flight was a movie I enjoyed so much not just because it has Denzel Washington who is one of the few truly gritty actors in Hollywood, but because it had a lot of clues about ‘Acts of God’ implying His providence. At first sight, the references to God in the movie appear to be a case for shabby script writing, but after more thought, I saw a pattern.

Denzel Washington is an chronic alcoholic who skilfully crash-lands a Flight that ‘fell apart midair’. He is hailed as a hero by the world. But the medical reports show alcohol in his blood. His brilliant save not withstanding, if convicted in the hearing, he could be incarcerated for ‘voluntary man-slaughter’. Don Cheadle is the lawyer who is going to save him. Even after the crash, Denzel is unable to stay off liquor. He tries but fails. His family is broken. The big question throughout the movie is why Denzel can’t seem to keep away from trouble.

Will Denzel finally be free. Why is God so often mentioned in the movie? Denzel’s Lawyer says that key to winning the case against him was to put the phrase ‘it was a the act of God’ in the court hearing documents implying that the cause for crashing the flight was an ‘act of God’ and had nothing to do with Denzel’s alcholism. This is an important clue. The lawyer succeeds in getting his language in, but does the ‘act of God’ save Denzel after all. What is the act of God doing here, really? Is it really going to save him.


One of the first clues to understanding why God is omnipresent in the movie is why the Flight should crash land in the in the premises of a Church? Why should a director do that? Why not an empty field? Why not a Lake or a River? Why does the Flight have to clip off the top of the Church Spire? Which on retrospect was the cause for the Flight breaking into pieces upon impact. Lives would potentially have been saved had there not been a Church in the first place. Why does the Church Spire play this ignominious role of making the disaster fatally worse, tightening the noose on Denzel? Is that all co-incidence? 
Why are the Church parishioners, in the days and weeks after the crash, still coming back to the crash site and praying for the victims? I mean, they aren’t hoping to raise people from the dead after they have been buried some place else, are they? Why do Denzel and his Lawyer see the praying parishioners and talk about them? Why does Denzel in incredulity ask, ‘What God would want such a thing to happen?’? 
A key Clue: There is a scene where Denzel goes to visit his injured co-pilot in the Hospital to ask him to testify that Denzel wasn’t Drunk. The Co-pilot is a fire-breathing Pentecostal Christian who earnestly prays with Denzel that God is provident and that something good would come even out of this. He prays for Denzel to use this opportunity and change from his drunken ways.
Spoiler Alert: Denzel gets many opportunities to change his drunken ways but he does not. He lives in a state of denial of his depravity. So he can’t set himself straight in spite of getting a new girl friend who encourages him to not drink. She takes him to AA meetings which takes him deeper into his drinking binge. He is given multiple opportunity to be good, but he fails again and again. Finally, he puts himself into a self imposed exile and stays away from liquor for 9 straight days, he almost succeeds, until the night before the hearing.
After 9 days of being clean, with a false sense of satisfaction of having blotted out all the depravity of his past life, waiting to be vindicated in the hearing, Denzel is at the cusp of winning the court battle. He stays in a hotel room the day before the final hearing. Everything is going as per plan. He has been off liquor for 9 days. He will be acquitted and all will be well. Just as he is about to go to bed, he hears a door rattle in the wind. Why should this happen? He goes to check… He realizes the door opens into the next suite. He walks in. Closes the window. He hears the hum of the refrigerator. Why should he have? He opens the refrigerator. Guess what… it is filled with the choicest liquor bottles. Why of all places? Why after he had all the ducks in row? He goes on a drinking binge and looses the case the next day.

He goes to court hearing and realizes that his lying about drinking would disparage the character of his dead colleague with whom he had a ‘relationship’, he decides to face up to his depravity and own it. He voluntarily pleads guilty. He in incarcerated. In the prison, he finally gets over his drinking habit and recounts his story to his fellow inmates. He says something interesting, “It seems strange that I am saying this now, being here… I feel I am free at last.”

Could the door rattling in the wind be an ‘act of God’. Or was it just random coincidence. Could the Flight crash-landing on the premises of a Church an ‘act of God’ or was it just a random coincidence. Could Denzel trying to get over his habit and failing again and again an ‘act of God’. Were the ‘acts of God’ programmed such that they would force Denzel to face up to his own depravity.

If one looks back at the movie, the Pentecostal Co-pilot has a point, God had providentially used this disaster to help Denzel face his depravity and to set him Free. The Lawyer was right, it was after all the ‘act of God’ that such a thing happened. The prayers of the faithful parishioners weren’t of no avail. It was almost like the system was rigged to make Denzel repent. He couldn’t live in the state of denial. He had to face his depravity. If the crash of a Flight next to a Church cannot do it, a rattling door will. If the rattling of door will not work guilt associated with disparagement of a dead colleagues will. By hook or by crook, call it an ‘act of God’ he is set Free.

Which made me wonder… how often in a Christian’s life by hook or by crook, by the ‘act of God’ we are set Free from our ‘idols’ that enslave us. We can live in a state of denial for a while. We can refuse to face our depravity in pursuing our ‘idols’ for a while. Eventually, we find that we can’t keep kicking at thorns and thistles. Through ‘acts of God’ facing disappointments, despondency and depression, if we will acknowledge the reality of our own depravity and then we will be set Free.  Unless know who we truly are without God we will not be ready to set free.