Hmmm. My last post was not my most articulate ever. That is okay. There is a lot of newness here. New places, faces and ideas. Hear this though; I love new things (at home I was dubbed the ‘Novelty Queen’ by my mum). They are interesting and engaging, stretching you in all sorts of ways and presenting lots of possibilities. However, there does come a point when the layers of newness begin to accumulate, weighing me down, wearing the edges. Finding new places to buy toilet paper, ‘happy’ meat and gluten flour, joining new banks, phone companies and theological colleges will do that.
We began this week, having spent last week ‘orienting’ ourselves well. Greek, Hebrew, New Testament and Christian Thought and Culture (when I know, I’ll tell you!). More new. More ideas. More Bible. More creative, justice-seeking ways to live it out. More people to share it with. All while the creation-care-come-environmental echoes of the Boat course grow steadily stronger in my mind and the Syrian tragedy bewilders my breaking heart. The accumulated cacophony means I am wondering again about working. And walking. And waiting.
This is a season of ‘knowing’ for me, there is a marked change of landscape to attend to, but, regardless, but there are still lots of books here. Where the focus once was honeybees and sustainability, waste and want, celebration and cake, now N. T. Wright and other New Testament Scholars join me in (trying) to speak Greek at the table. The boat course taught me that knowledge is important. Without genuine knowledge, we live in the dark, unenlightened, wisdom eluding us. Without knowledge, there can be no love or care. But on the other hand we have the 1 Corinthians 8:1 reminder that knowledge for knowledge’s sake ‘puffs up’, it is love that builds up. I want to be with the first group. I want to know more so I can love more. Knowledge of another (or even just other), can humble, can bring godly wisdom. This vision seems important to grasp now.
I have always been an ‘applied’ kind of girl, loving working with my hands, loving ‘doing’ things. As a Technology teacher, I worked in the TAS department, the Technology and Applied Sciences department. Someone said at orientation this week that all Theology is Applied Theology – I love that, but I know that I am going to have to, Jacob-style, wrestle with it before I can settle down, at peace with it (for now, for this season). On one hand I am delighted that God wants my ‘knowing’ to be applied, that He is interested in my everyday-walking-around-life. I love ‘stuff’ (especially food, fibre, fabric, flower type ’stuff’), I love ‘doing’ and making things. I am so glad He is keen on His physical world and for me to live physically in it with all the rest of actual-physical creation. I am so glad He is interested in my walking and my working. But the question rings out again; ‘how shall we now then live?’. The process of wrestling (maybe I should add it to my other three ‘w’ words!), of ‘working out our salvation with fear and trembling’ (Philippians 2:12) so that we know the ‘good work He has planned for us to walk in’ (Ephesians 2:10) seems to torment me at times! But perhaps the clue is in the fact that I jumped books in that sentence. The end of Philippians 2:12 does not have us working, Ephesian style. It actually has God working; ‘work out your own salvation with fear and trembling [Paul says] … for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure’. Waiting on Him, being still, knowing and (far more importantly) being known by Him comes to the forefront again. He’s going to work in me, in you, for His good pleasure.
Do I work? Does God? Yes and yes. The tension will remain. Everyday I will get up in this eco-physical-spiritual world and I will try and apply my theology. I will try and walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8), rather than running ahead, full of anxious energy. I will try and wait, to live in the season that is happening, aware of my dependence on Him (and the rest of His good, but, in places, very tired creation) held daily before my eyes, thankful not resentful. I will try to do the rather-clear-and-non-negotiable good works He sets before me (instead of getting stressed about which ones are mine to do specially). I will try to love, ‘because He first loved me’ (1 John 4:10), sending His Son to save and show me. I will try and care for the ‘orphans and the widows’ (James 1:27). I will try to a live a quiet [but not a small] life, and ‘work with my hands’ (1 Thessalonians 4:11). I’ll study, I’ll do food shopping. I’ll make dinner and share it. Some days I will reach out and others, bunker down, trying to learn apt stillness. Maybe I’ll even make something beautiful every now and then, a bit like Him. Mostly I want to learn to do it with joy and gratitude* because its gift, and offered back to the Giver, it seems right worship. More about Him, less about me. I am a slow learner. Maybe that is why I am still studying.
The garden continues to grow. He tends the tiny seedlings, patiently watering and pruning as needs arise. Progress is slow but steady.
* (not fear, because fear has to do with punishment (1 John 4:18), and there is now no condemnation (Romans 8:1))