Made Glorious Summer

Yesterday in class I gave a presentation on Wolfhart Pannenberg’s theological method. What was supposed to be half an hour turned into the last hour of class as I fielded questions about the eschaton, anticipation, retro-causation, lots of other “big words” that sound important and difficult. Really, I talked a lot about Jesus as the centerpoint of history and the hope we have in the echoes of eternity that we can hear even today in our grinding work and anxious waiting for his return.

After the presentation, when we had moved our tables back to their normal formation and dumped out water from the teapot, while I helped the professor stack teas and sugar into his little box that comes with him each week, he said I’d done a good job. And then, as my hand stretched for the door and I leaned towards the mundane latter part of my day he called me up short: “you should get a PhD. Lord willing, whatever the future looks like for you, I think you should not put aside your hopes of a PhD.” I laughed, nervously, as I always do when someone says such a thing — that both exhilarates and terrifies me.

Today, as I pulled into the parking lot of a coffee shop with one of my students, I got a txt from my boss. And I, opening it with nerves that I had mistakenly promised to come into work today, I found myself not only surprised but delighted. Because he’d written to tell me about a scholarship he thinks I qualify for. And I nearly jumped out of the car with joy.

And yesterday, I was told I could get credit for research for SBL.

And tonight I fly to Seattle with my love for a weekend to celebrate my dear friend Caitlin and her coming husband.

And it’s sunny outside.

And all I can think is that after a month or more of long hard days, with late nights and a life chock full of stress, arguments and helplessness, I have been reminded that God cares for me, that God is with us, that he is in these little moments of joy and hope.

And while they might be spoken in sarcasm and spite by Richard in Shakespeare’s ancient play, I could jump and clap my hands while shouting the words —

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer!

 

Bruised Knees and Joy

Last week, while running with one of my students, we decided to try out sprinting. We’re “training” for a race which means we’re trying to get my short little legs to run faster. After a seven month hiatus from running at all, asking these stubby appendages to do anything quickly is quite an endeavor. But it was cold and grey, the ground still frozen from the latest snow, so we marked the start and with the end in sight we began to sprint.

Three steps. I made it three steps before I yelped and cursed like a sailor and stopped. My knee had torqued to the side and I was bent double. But the pain faded, and the poor, tough kid mentality of my college years took over and I went back to jogging. Three miles later we’d done some decent sprints and I went off to meet with my own mentor.

Today, a week later, I’m wearing a brace and I had to gimp my way down the stairs to the car this morning. I’m just thankful I didn’t volunteer to walk to seminary today.*

This morning a dear friend hugged me and it felt like I might burst into tears when I stood up to return her embrace — the pain is worse when I go from sitting to standing, from bent to straight. She listened to what had happened and then said with her sweet smile:

This is all in his plan, it doesn’t surprise Him. Now, your work is to learn to see the plan, and even when you don’t you’re to trust.

Trust. Work to trust.

I’m to work out salvation in this day, this pain, the grinding anxiety that there’s something seriously wrong with my knee — something bound to cost money that I don’t have and time I’m unwilling to give up. But this is it, this is the work of the believer:

to look down at my knee, hidden in black elastic band and say, this is good. This the opportunity to trust, to wait more and hurry less, to be thankful for bodies that do work and pray for those that don’t.

It isn’t bruised, it isn’t swollen and it’s probably only a muscle sprain because it feels better when I’m moving. But I can’t run, I can’t train for the race, I can’t go up and downstairs with ease, I can’t bend at the oven or crouch with children. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.

But I can choose to see God’s goodness in making bodies that work, in sustaining my knee from sliding all the way out of joint in the frozen cold. I can choose to trust that even if I have to see a doctor, God will provide a way because he knows my needs.

And you see — there it is — learning to trust in God’s character (provision, care, knowledge, sovereignty) rather than the situation in which I’ve found myself. This is the work of a believer: to trust God (and how do you trust if you don’t know Him?) and then to go out and live a life that speaks of such deep trust.

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*on a sidenote, please don’t worry about my knee! We’re pretty sure it’s only a minor muscle issue that just needs rest and some extra support when I do take up running again (and no, that won’t be this week, but hopefully soon).